Austere and comfortable, King Louie's bar pulls off the rare Zen exacta of holding two contrary ideas simultaneously. A woman in a little black dress and pumps sits beside a refined barfly who's saddled up alongside a filthy-rich couple deep in conversation with a finicky wine snob. This is important, this comfort and austerity. You're drinking cocktails, after all, the best in the city. You want space to breathe, but not so much that you don't feel akin to your neighbors. Tip your hat, and your glass, to Louie's head bartender, David Tabscott. Like his father, noted St. Louis historian Robert Tabscott, the son has a knack for context. David not only knows what to put in, but why it should be there. Like a great chef, or theoretician, or playwright, Tabscott understands how to use his ingredients to best effect. If you're in the mood for a basic martini, you can order it with the confidence that Tabscott's going to get it right. King Louie's' cocktail list isn't flashy or trendy. What it is, is solid
, filled with unknown pleasures and updated classics. Like, for instance, the Raspberry Martini: raspberry vodka, cassis, framboise and -- the transformative ingredient -- lime. And the Louie's 75, a Champagne martini featuring vodka, lemon, pomegranate juice and Champagne. What's best is the restraint: Where some places offer pages and pages of martini options, King Louie's sticks to a perfect ten, which range from sweet to sour to dry to wet. Tabscott knows
these drinks. Order with confidence; enjoy with conviviality.