There's a certain kind of understated pleasure that can come from cracking open a twelve-pack in your own back yard as the Cardinals game buzzes in the background. But as we dive headlong into summer, lots of local restaurants and bars are celebrating the warmer temps with carefully curated cocktails, many of which feature fresh herbs from on-site gardens, liquor that's infused in-house or inspiration from around the globe. Read on for some of the city's best seasonal cocktails.
"Bunny Love" at Atomic Cowboy A place that specializes in Tex-Mex fare (chimichangas, enchiladas, a killer Texas-style chili con carne) better serve a damn tasty margarita. Atomic Cowboy (4140 Manchester Avenue; 314-775-0775) passes that test and then some, offering multiple variations such as the "Cowboy-Rita" (that's the house marg, made with Milagro silver tequila, agave nectar and lime juice) and strawberry margaritas -- no sour mix here. But the quirky "Bunny Love" may be the most intriguing with its house-infused mango-chile tequila, lemon juice, agave nectar and, yes, fresh carrot juice. Enjoy it on Atomic Cowboy's spacious and revamped patio -- a perfect spot for enjoying drinks well into the wee hours: This Cowboy rides till 3 a.m. every day of the week.
"The Pamplemousse" at Bar Les Frères Pamplemousse is French for grapefruit. So guess what's in the cocktail of the same name at Clayton's new French bistro, Bar Les Frères (7637 Wydown Boulevard; 314-725-8880)? This simple yet elegant drink made of (you guessed it!) grapefruit liqueur is as tart as it is refreshing. And it's also a lot of fun to say, given that its butchered English pronunciation (papal moose) can make it sound like a Vatican-approved forest creature. Not into grapefruit? Try Bar Les Frères' excellent "French 75" made with Cointreau, gin, Champagne, and lemon and orange juices. Either citrus concoction is a fine choice for Francophiles, or anyone who appreciates an expertly crafted cocktail. We can't wait to see what this swanky Clayton newcomer dreams up next.
"Beware Coyotes" at Farmhaus The cocktail names at Farmhaus (3257 Ivanhoe Avenue; 314-647-3800) have whispers of Americana. There's the lemon-gin libation, "In the Boonies," and the "All I See Is Gold" that includes orange vodka and O'Fallon Brewery's Wheach beer. The down-home names are not so surprising for a place that has resurrected blue-plate lunch specials, to say nothing of its renowned dinner menu featuring upscale, locally sourced New American cuisine. In particular, the cocktail "Beware Coyotes" encapsulates Farmhaus quite well: Made with house-infused root-beer bourbon, sweet vermouth, triple sec and orange, it's deceptively simple -- kind of mysterious, kind of funny and all kinds of perfect for spring and summer.
Pineapple Mojito at Mango Peruvian Cuisine Peru is home to things great and fluffy (alpacas!), and small and, um, fried (guinea pigs). Downtown's Mango Peruvian Cuisine (1101 Lucas Avenue; 314-621-9993) has, well, neither of these things, but it does bring to the table fresh pineapple mojitos all summer long: Key limes get up close and personal with mint and Bacardi rum. Finished off with a splash of club soda and quartered limes, it's an ideal patio drink for watching downtown's denizens float on by. And even though the drinks themselves won't feature umbrellas, Mango's patio does. "Flying Fish Cocktail" at Olio Olio's (1634 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-1088) drink menu of a dozen or so cocktails is always in flux, and it shines particularly bright in the summer: Bent toward the classics from near and far, cocktails over the next three months pay homage to sunshiny drinks and storytellers alike. During these waning days of May, stop by for an "Airmail," imbued with rum, honey, lime and Champagne for a drink that embodies springtime. June takes a cue from Charles H. Baker Jr.'s book Jigger, Beaker and Glass: Drinking Around the World, and, says bartender John Fausz, will highlight somewhat obscure drinks long overdue for a comeback, including the gin and citrus "Flying Fish Cocktail." July's an ode to Ernest Hemingway, who was born (and died) that month, and Olio will celebrate with Old World drinks from Cuba and the Caribbean: Look forward to the "Montgomery" martini, served at a chill 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Caipirinha at Sanctuaria The people behind the bar at Sanctuaria (4198 Manchester Avenue; 314-535-9700) love cocktails. They love informing newbies about the history of cocktails, they love pulling out old-school books to explain the contrasts between this cocktail and that one...heck, Matt Seiter, Sanctuaria's bar manager and CLO (chief liquor officer, of course) has written his own book about it called The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars: How We Rewrote the Rules and Recipes One Cocktail at a Time. There are tons of summer cocktail options at Sanctuaria, but for a quick hit of the faraway, try the caipirinha, Brazil's best-loved drink. It starts with Cabana Cachaça, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and mint leaves plucked right from Sanctuaria's garden. Served over crushed ice in a double rocks glass, it's a cool South American escape right in the heart of the Grove.
"Barrel-Aged Unusual Negroni" at Taste Leave it to Taste (4584 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-1200) & Co. to concoct unusual (and delicious) summertime drinks in our back yard while drawing inspiration from distant places. Though its new list of a dozen or so cocktails for spring and summer is excellent all around, the real star is Taste's gin, which is aged on site for six to eight weeks in old rye and bourbon casks. (The aged gin is also available at Taste's sister restaurants -- Niche, Brasserie by Niche and Pastaria.) Taste's gin perfectly balances the "Barrel-Aged Unusual Negroni," and gives a classic cocktail a new twist: With the help of Lillet rosé and Aperol comes a lighter, brighter drink than a conventional negroni. The popular "Curious Flowers" is a romp through the garden, combining Hendrick's gin, Fruitlab hibiscus, crème de cassis, lemon juice, housemade orange marmalade and angostura bitters, all topped off with Brut and a sweet rosebud garnish.