Meet the Suze.
Where we're drinking:
Elmwood (2704 Sutton Blvd, Maplewood; 314-261-4708)
What we're drinking:
The Suze ($11)
When we're drinking:
End-of-the-week cocktail hour
The month of May finally got its act together, and it feels like summer weather is here at last. The changing seasons also mean I switch up what I’m drinking. So it’s goodbye bourbon and heavy cabernets, and hello rose and citrus cocktails. Currently, the drink I’m loving is the Suze at Elmwood. The light-and-delicious Suze consists of Hendricks gin, banana-bay (a mixture of banana and bay leaf syrup) and lime, shaken and then poured over ice.
There are no fancy or cutesy cocktail names at Elmwood. (Suze, for example, is a French brand of bitters.) The ingredients are simply listed, with the spirit getting top billing. As you make your way through the list, you’ll notice the cocktails are separated into full-proof, low-proof and zero-proof. Co-owner Chris Kelling explains the thought process that went into the composition of the list (and hitting a little too close to home in the process), “I like drinking cocktails, but having three Manhattans isn’t always the best idea. Having lower proof options means those same three cocktails don’t come with the same consequences.” The refreshing Suze is one of the low-proof options, and since they go down with ease, Elmwood is basically saving you from yourself.
The zero-proof option is also a welcome change that allows non-drinkers to enjoy something with a greater flavor profile than water. “My wife was pregnant when Elmwood was opening, and it was very top of mind how boring it was for non-drinkers going to nice dinners with limited beverage options,” Kelling says.
Behind the bar at Elmwood is a familiar face in Dave Greteman — formerly of Handlebar, Taste, Parlor and Sardella (where he met Kelling). “Dave was the first hire we made. Having him be a part of this was very important to Adam [Altnether, co-owner and executive chef] and I. His knowledge of spirits and being able to translate it to the guests is one of the reasons he’s such a talent.” The Suze was a Greteman creation, and while I was hesitant to go with a gin cocktail, the smoothness and flavor profile mean the gin isn’t going to overpower you.
Four months into its tenure, Elmwood has nestled in nicely along the main drag in Maplewood, offering not only elevated small plates but coal-fired masterpieces that pair perfectly with a post-work cocktails or wine from the well-manicured list. The 26-foot-long bar, made by local woodworking aficionado Dave Stine of Dave Stine Woodworking, seats twelve without any jostling. Kelling sought to give the bar a more casual vibe than the rest of the restaurant.
“The barrier in between the bar area and the restaurant is by design,” he says. “We want people to feel just as comfortable coming and hanging for snacks and beer as they would in slacks for a dinner out.”
The blend of casual and elevated can be hard to pull off. Elmwood does. You can grab short rib beef jerky skewers for $4 each alongside a Scrimshaw pilsner. Or you can go with the aforementioned Suze, which pairs well with the oysters prepared with lime granita. Either works. And either way, you’ll go home happy.
Ellen Prinzi is our bar columnist. She likes strong drinks and has strong opinions. You can catch more of her writing via Olio City, a city guide app she started in 2017.