With the Kentucky Derby happening this Saturday, we thought our readers could use a mint julep to help them ride out the rest of the week until the inevitable drinking and partying associated with both the Derby and Cinco de Mayo the following day.
We ventured to Sanctuaria (4198 Manchester Avenue; 314-535-9700), the tapas and cocktail bar headed by master mixologist Matt Seiter, in search of the perfect mint julep, and bartender Nate Kromat definitely delivered.
Served in a chilled silver goblet, the Sanctuaria julep is worthy of a sweet Southern belle sitting on a warm Kentucky porch in May. It's not too fancy or avant garde. It's lots of mint and lots of bourbon and just the right amount of sweetness. And oh, that mint!
"Our mint patch is over in front of Café Ventana, and it's huge," Kromat says. "It's a twelve-foot-by-six-foot patch of mint. People will go walking by during the day and just pick mint all the time."
He assures us there will be plenty left by the time Saturday rolls around, and the bar is going to need it. Sanctuaria is hosting its third annual Derby Day party, and the bartenders are expecting more than 150 people to attend.
No tickets or reservations are needed, and there's no cover. Mint juleps will be on special for $5, and the bartenders will be muddling mint until their hands ache. At the start of the shindig, the whole bar will be lined with silver goblets with the mint and the simple syrup ready to go. Then the bartenders will go down the line with the bourbon, crushing and mixing, like a sweet, minty assembly line.
Sanctuaria will be showing the Derby on all three TVs in the bar area, but Kromat says they've been encouraging guests to bring iPads and place bets through Derby Day websites, just to increase the drama of the evening. There will also be a raffle for several bourbons, including a bottle of Maker's Mark limited edition mint julep, which is usually only offered in Kentucky.
And don't think that because you're at the self-proclaimed "dive bar of cocktail bars" Derby Day won't get a little fancy.
"We're usually really casual behind the bar, but Derby is the one day a year where you'll see us wearing vests and maybe even ties," Kromat says. "Customers get into it too. We always see lots of big hats."
If you're like Gut Check though, you might be wondering: What is a Spanish tapas dive bar doing celebrating Derby Day?
"I'm not sure," Kromat says, laughing. "I think it's mainly cause Matt Seiter really likes bourbon."
If that's not a good reason, we don't know what is.
Editor's note: Wednesday. Hump Day. Congrats, you've made it halfway through the work week! Unfortunately, you still have two days to go.
Dunno about you, but in order to survive the midweek blues, we're going to need a drink. Which brings us to our Wednesday Gut Check feature: "Gut Check's Hump-Day Cocktail Suggestion."
Each week we take you to one of our favorite St. Louis bars (and, oh, the list is long) for a drink (or two) we -- in consultation with the bartender -- highly recommend.