We're riding in the back of a black stretch Prius, an energy-efficient extendo-hybrid that gets an astounding thirteen miles per gallon. Nothin' like livin' large, guilt-free. It has black pleather seats, the armrests are lined with the finest faux-fur, and the door handles are bejeweled with shimmering Egyptian zirconia. It's night, and we're wearing sunglasses — and a poorly tailored rental tux. And a red rose.
We're on Big Bend headed to Maplewood. In a few moments, we will be standing at a podium, facing a wall of misfit drunkards and random miscreants, all of whom stand in waiting, hoping to learn the secret of how the hell this guy got the job where they pay him to go out and get drunk and shoot the shit with bartenders, learn about booze, and eat till he's flabby.
Yeah, we're a little nervous. Half these idiots know twice as much about the craft of the cocktail as we do, most know more about malts and hops, and everyone knows more about first-growth Bordeaux. And yet somehow we managed to parlay a right-time-right-place moment into weekly free liquids across the St. Louis area. For nearly five years, the company paid for the drinks. Somebody should call the cops.
We pull into Maplewood and cruise slowly down Manchester. Our fans line the boulevard. A rotten tomato slams the back window with a pooomph. Then a full head of lettuce. An egg, and then another. Our driver stops in front of Monarch, and we scurry to the outdoor podium. You suck! screams one of the assembled masses.
"You suck harder," we say by way of introduction and then pull out a stack of note cards. Someone hands us a cocktail. It's called a Horse's Kick. We take a big-ass gulp, then another: ginger beer, Rittenhouse Rye Whisky, peach schnapps and a touch of Angostura bitters. It's garnished with a "horse's neck" of lemon zest. Depth of spicy, clove-y flavor. Ginger and peach. "This, friends, is the perfect summer cocktail," we announce. Silence.
We gulp again. Next week, a new lucky duck — Kristie McClanahan — takes the reins at Drink of the Week HQ. Deep breath, and we begin our valedictory:
"On this, the final night of our reign as the King of Drink of the Week, we thank you. The past four-odd years have felt like we've been riding on the back of a Monarch during nectar season, bouncing from flower to flower and sucking in sweet, sweet juices. Each week, a different place, a different experiment, a different creation.
"In that time, we have drank many different things, from cocktails to shots to gulps of water to cups of coffee. At times we've drank to excess, at others we've drank to success. We've shared bottles of Burgundies and glasses of Chartreuse, have double-fisted 40-ouncers of Bud Light attached to our hands with duct tape — in order to understand the allure of a game called Edward Fortyhands.
"We have learned much, and a few of these things you should know." (We take another gulp of the Horse's Kick. Bartender Ted Kilgore just debuted it on Monarch's cocktail menu. You should go there and order one.)
"First: If you drink too much, over time, you will start to get this half-inch layer of booze fat, which is spread evenly over your entire body. Although the gelatinous skin-within-skin barely registers when you look in the mirror, it's very obvious to everyone else, and they will secretly think to themselves, Wow, you need to slow down a little bit. (Also: Pants don't shrink that much when you wash them. The reason why your booty feels too big for your pants is because your booty has become too big for your pants.)
"The reason you don't have a hangover this morning is not because you took it easy last night, but because certain aspects of your system have adapted to one (or three) too many. If you're drinking, don't drive. If you're driving, don't drink. If you're drinking and driving and you crash and burn, don't sue. If, when trying to decipher what the bartender has just said to you, you hear the word cab or taxi, nod your head and give him your keys. Remember to tip your waitresses and bartenders. (Two dollars on a ten-dollar martini, at least.)
"There is nothing better than a goddamn pint of Schlafly coffee stout on a winter's night. On some nights, the thing that's better than a coffee stout is a glass of Laphroaig fifteen-year-old single malt scotch from the Scottish Arms. If you need a good bottle of red but all you've got is a shitty grocery store wine selection, buy the $10 Castle Rock pinot noir. The pisco sour that they offer at Mango in south county is worth the drive. King Louie's offers free rosemary nuts when you drink at the bar. They go real well with a Louie's 75.
"OK, OK, the producers are telling us we need to stop. Thank you all. We leave you with sage advice from Andrew W.K., who closed his philosophic treatise, I Get Wet, with the following words:
Oh! Don't stop living in the red! Don't stop living in the red! Don't stop living in the reeehhhd! You were always living in the red! You were always living in the red! You were always living in the reeehhhd! Ooooh! Ohh! Ooooooh! Ooooh! Red! Red! Red! Red! Red! Red! Reeeehhhhd! Don't stop stop living in the red! Don't stop living in the red! Don't stop living in the reeeeehhhhhhd! Whooooa! Oooh! Oooh! Don't stop living in the red! Red! Red! Red! Red! Red! Red! Reeehhhhhhhdddd!