Wine takes top billing at Brown Derby, but we didn't let that throw us. When it comes to liquor brands, this upscale west St. Louis County shop, located near the intersection of Clayton Road and Highway 141, has few equals in the metro area. Brown Derby offers a superlative selection of distilled spirits, including cognacs, liqueurs, rums, gins, tequilas, single-malt Scotches, whiskeys and premium bourbons. This is where we go for Asbach Uralt (the Fatherland's equivalent of Cognac, but better), Cinzano and Noilly Prat dry vermouth, Bärenjäger honey liqueur and even French refined absinthe. The mothership Brown Derby opened in Springfield, Missouri in 1937 as a traditional liquor store but in the late 1960s morphed into a retailer of fine wines (see www.brownderby.com
for info on the main store). True, we don't go to Brown Derby for economy-size discount brands, but there are plenty of dirt-cheap outlets for us to load up the old Delta 88 with cases of Old Buzzard and Clan MacCracker Imported Hooch. Brown Derby, which opened its St. Louis store about five years ago, also stocks a wide selection of imported beer, cheeses and snacks, cigars and gift items. The wine selection is robust, enough to give a dilettante a headache. We were confused: Do we go with the Fess Parker pinot noir or the Francis Coppola merlot? And the Fattorio Monsanto Chianti just plain scared us. Thankfully, Brown Derby has a helpful staff and offers free wine tastings on Saturdays from noon till 4 p.m.