Where to Drink in St Louis

This September was my first visit to St. Louis, and visiting a city you’ve never been to post-pandemic is always a strange experience, because you don’t really know what it used to be like. On my way from the airport my Lyft driver tells me, “Be careful. It’s what someone told me when I first moved here, and so now, I’ll tell you.” He says that while making very intense eye contact in the rear view mirror. I tell him this is good advice when visiting any new city, rather than saying “okay bud, that’s a bit creepy.” I can’t help but think this is the start of a midwestern horror movie, maybe a gay retelling of Get Out? (Later in the week, during a drive an hour or so outside the city, we pass a gun shop with enthusiastic signage you could spot from outer space, encouraging you to build your own AR-15. Before the next mile marker we spot a mega church. And with that, my Lyft driver’s warning started to make a bit more sense….)

Downtown St. Louis makes me think that if Denver and Louisville had a weird little midwest lovechild, it would look something like this. Lots of red brick but with more abrupt architectural changes. The financial district is Conferencelandia, more of a hodgepodge of visitors who will make their own small city and then disappear for the next group to swoop in.  There’s also end of season baseball, the playoffs, and a lot of Cardinals fans. (It should be noted that STL takes baseball very seriously.)

Parts of the city look shuttered for the foreseeable future, but there are some gems to be found, and I’m not just talking about White Castle. Cocktails, bottle shops, and oh my the distilleries! Lots of craft beer. There's definitely a good reason the American Distilling Institute chose STL as a their conference location this year. Here are a few of the highlights from my trip.

Management at Wood Hat Spirits

Downtown St. Louis

Blood and Sand
1500 St Charles St

The Blood and Sand, named after the eponymous cocktail, has an old school vibe. With dark furniture, it evokes the feel of a private dinner club and a speakeasy. It's the type of place that actually offers a membership with benefits for frequent diners (but you don’t need one). You’d think that would make it a bit stiff and hoity toity, but the service was quite gracious and welcoming, even showing up as I did without a reservation. Dining and drinking here is not cheap, but also wasn’t overpriced considering the quality of the food, cocktails, and service. There was even an amuse bouche, which I haven’t had since the last time I visited Gary Danko in SF.

I only had time for one cocktail (well, I ended up drinking two, but only because the first was so good I decided I needed another of the same for quality control…I am nothing if not dedicated to science.) Friends, this is the best Blood and Sand I’ve ever had. They acidulate the OJ, and use Monkey Shoulder blended scotch. It was spot on, and served in vintage glassware that I went to Etsy to score for myself. The Wagyu burger was solid. The tots are heavenly little puffs of silky potato goodness. Make a reservation to ensure you can get seated!

Blood and Sand served in a vintage coupe

Bridge Tap House and Wine Bar 
1004 Locust St

Bridge is both a tap house and a wine bar; the wine menu is certainly decent, but I wouldn’t call it a destination wine bar (but I also live in the Bay Area where I’m spoiled by wine bar/shop selections so feel free to ignore me). But their beer tap offerings are where this place shines. They have 55 draft beers available, with many rotating taps, and you can order 4, 12, 20, and 64 ounce pours. Their selection of regional beer is solid and a great way to try a variety of local brews in one spot. They have a simple but solid gastro-pub style menu of sandwiches, pub snacks, and charcuterie boards and other share plates. Great casual spot, but again, a reservation is helpful if you want to dine there.


Still 630
1000 South 4th Street

Nerd paradise! This little urban distillery is conveniently located downtown, and happens to be even more conveniently a couple of blacks away from a White Castle. One of the best domestic rums I’ve tasted. They distill all kinds of fun stuff including a sorghum spirit and a seasonal beer. You can visit the distillery, buy a tasting flight, and also buy bottles to take home directly from the distillery. Their Navy Strength gin is absolutely stellar.

This gin just won ADI's (2022) double gold and best in category!  

1220 Spirits (founded by Four Hands Brewery)
1220 S 8th St.

While I didn’t visit their brewery or distillery, I did sample their wares at the STL Gin Fest and regret not knowing about them earlier! These folks make a range of spirits including an aperitivo, but I only had a chance to taste their Origin gin and their very tasty tonic water (made by the brewery).


Outside of downtown/financial district

The Gin Room
3200 S Grand Blvd

Located in her parents’ former Persian restaurant, Natasha Bahrami’s passion project The Gin Room was founded in 2014. The bar is located in the Tower Grove East neighborhood just a short cab ride away from downtown, and seems to be a great place to spend some time if you have the chance. Natasha’s bar may have started with a handful of gins, but they now have 300 botanical bottles on their back bar, as well as a solid cocktail menu, and outside seating when the weather is willing. If you're hungry, make a reservation in their dining room (Salve), which serves modern, Italian inspired fare. Expect lots of locals and a chill vibe. Great service, lovely staff. There’s also a bottle shop (Grand Spirits) across the street owned by Natasha’s SO, so you can grab a bottle to take with you.

Out in the country .... (beware of large spiders)

Wood Hat Spirits
white dog at the source
New Florence, MO

If you didn’t care about corn before visiting Wood Hat's distillery, you’ll be a full convert by the time you leave. Gary Hinegardner believes we should care more about the ingredients going into our whiskeys, and has been working with geneticists at the University of Missiouri and their corn breeding program. They distill a variety of spirits including corn whiskeys, bourbon, and a few liqueurs, and get awarded quadruple bonus points for having a distillery cat. I won’t go into too much detail here because I’ll be writing up a Distillery Deep Dive on Wood Hat soon, with plenty of information and photos for you in the next installment. You’ll also find information about Wood Hat (and corn!) in my upcoming book.

Nobleton Distillery
Union, Missouri (temp closed to public)

I didn’t make it out quite this far, but I did have the chance to chat with the distiller and co-owner Demetrius Cain and taste a few of their spirits. I also sat in on a panel for ADI about apple brandy where I discovered they’ve started their own dunder pit! They use raw materials from their family farms to make a agriculture centric portfolio of spirits. They’re currently closed to the public, but you can find their spirits locally in Kansas and MO.

Marthasville, Missouri

This small, family run distillery crafts classic eau de vies made with traditional European sensibility – not really something I expected to find in MO but what a pleasant surprise! Martin Weber immigrated from Switzerland 30 years ago, and now makes small batches of fruit brandy in copper pot stills, which reflect his heritage. With whole fruit maceration and slow, sometimes months-long fermentation times, these brandies are bursting with flavor.


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