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Taste’s Joel Burton: Featured Bartender of the Week

Burton poses behind a selection of bitters. The Blood & Sand cocktail is on the left, the Jack Rose is the pink drink near center.

Burton poses behind a selection of bitters. The Blood & Sand cocktail is on the left, the Jack Rose is the pink drink near center.

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Jaime Lees profiles Joel Burton of Taste. Below is a Q&A with Burton, followed by the recipe for the Jack Rose.

Inspired by a suggestion from last week’s featured bartender Laura Therina of Baileys’ Chocolate Bar (1915 Park Avenue; 314-241-8100), we decided to pop into Taste (4584 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-1200) in the Central West End to sample the establishment’s insanely creative drinks menu.

The tiny restaurant and bar is situated near the southernmost part of the Central West End proper, on Laclede Avenue at South Euclid Avenue. A small door opens to a curtained entryway, and beyond that there’s a tall wood bar and a few small tables for dining. The dark bar is gorgeous and illuminated by delightfully dim, faux vintage multi-filament light bulbs.

We were greeted by bartender Joel Burton and his lovely smile. Burton is a good guide for the uninitiated, asking customers what they like and don’t like before offering suggestions — he’ll even mix you up something special on the spot if he’s inspired. He described Taste as a “safe environment to try new things.”

We spoke to the personable Burton in short bursts between mixing fizzy drinks — he had a lot of cocktails to shake on this particular evening.

Jaime Lees: Describe your bartending style in three words.
Joel Burton: Methodical, fun and consistent

A girl walks into a bar and orders a _____, she has just earned your undying admiration.
Probably a De La Louisiane or an Old Fashioned. The De La Louisiane is one of the classics we have around here, it’s kind of like a Manhattan, it has some of the Bénédictine in it instead of the vermouth. So it’s just a little bit of honey and herbal flavors. It’s spicy and just fabulous.

Other than your own place, where do you go to get a good drink and what do you get?
I usually go to Sanctuaria. They’ll make me cocktails, or they’ll serve me a shot of Fernet and a beer. I usually don’t drink cocktails when I go out. I was originally, like, a beer and wine drinker. So the cocktail thing is still… I haven’t found my home for it yet.

What’s one thing that most people don’t realize about crafting cocktails or bartending?
That it is a craft and things take time. And I’m sorry if I take a couple of minutes to make your drink, but there’s a method and we all have the same goal: which is to make something that is absolutely stunning for you. I could do it different every time.

Who would you most like to have a drink with? And why?
That’s a good question! I don’t know… um… Oh! I want to drink with James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem. Because he’s kind of my hero and also he’s awesome. And I would just like to know what he has to say about everything. He’s kind of a maniac but he’s kind of a badass. I want to see what he thinks.

What’s the most bizarre or worst drink that someone has ordered from you?
I don’t know, I usually try to block those things from my memory. I usually will just make it and then get rid of it. We always get requests for birthday cake shots…

What’s the coolest or weirdest thing you’ve witnessed while working at Taste?
On my birthday, there were a bunch of people in from the Speed Rack competition. It’s a ladies speed bartending competition. They did this a couple of months ago down at 2720– it’s all to benefit breast cancer. And the people that organized it came in here, and it was a Sunday night and it was late and they were the only people in here at that point. And it was my birthday right after work, so they gave me a Fernet luge through a menu. They just folded one of the cocktail menus in half and I just took the shot straight down the menu. It was totally awesome.

Jack Rose cocktail
1/2 Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1/4 Lemon
1/4 Grenadine

In honor of Burton’s answer to who he’d like to most drink with, here’s “Drunk Girls” by LCD Soundsystem:

link: Riverfront Times

Baileys’ Chocolate Bar’s Laura Therina: Featured Bartender of the Week

Therina presents the Mexican Chocolate martini.

Therina presents the Mexican Chocolate martini.

Baileys’ Chocolate Bar’s Laura Therina: Featured Bartender of the Week
By Jaime Lees
Thu., Feb. 7 2013

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Jaime Lees profiles Laura Therina of Baileys’ Chocolate Bar. Below is a Q&A with Therina, followed by the recipe for the Mexican Chocolate Martini.

With the most romantic day of the year coming up soon, we decided to check in at Baileys’ Chocolate Bar (1915 Park Avenue; 314-241-8100). With its dark, hushed atmosphere and surprisingly strong martinis, the bar is one of St. Louis’ premier Valentine’s Day venues. It’s the perfect date destination for cozy little table for two. (Or a cozier table for three, if that’s your preference. We don’t judge.)

Located in historic Lafayette Square, Baileys’ Chocolate Bar has long held down the same block that now hosts neighbors like Square One Brewery. The building includes a low-lit restaurant backed with a generous outdoor dining area, and the menu offers options for every type of gluttony: savory snacks, rich cheese plates and delicious deserts.

The front door opens to a warm, wood-wrapped bar, and that’s where we found bartender Laura Therina. Therina has been employed at the bar for more than two and half years, working her way from hostess to server to bartender. She knows all the details of the business and offers up interesting information about the building, including the details of a rumor among the staff that the location is haunted.

She’s engaging and sweet, fist-bumping with a regular and gossiping with a man about his pretty date while the lady was off in the powder room. We spoke with Therina as she was behind the bar mixing up cocktails and Radiohead’s “Knives Out” played quietly in the background.

Describe your bartending style in three words.
[Therina was bashful on this question, but we would describe her style as “friendly and efficient”]

A girl walks into a bar and orders a _____, she has just earned your undying admiration.
A cold signature martini.

Other than your own place, where do you go to get a good drink? And what do you get?
I go to Taste in the Central End and get an “Abduction.” It’s got a mascarpone cheese, duck fat infused Grand Mariner, some lemon twists and black pepper. It is awesome.

What is one thing that most people don’t realize about crafting cocktails or bartending?
I don’t think they realize it’s a huge thought process and it’s not just about what we want to do, ourselves, it’s about what other people would like. So, here, people come in here for chocolate martinis, and we try to think of fun stuff that people would enjoy.

Who would you most like to have a drink with? And why?
I would like to have a drink with Al Pacino, because he is The Godfather.

What is the most bizarre or worst drink someone has ordered from you?
I’m sure it’s some stupid shot.

What is the coolest or weirdest thing you’ve witnessed while working at Bailey’s Chocolate Bar?
Well, we get a lot of bachelorette parties. So, I see a lot of sashes, a lot of crowns and tiaras. Recently, we had a hat party and it was twenty people in huge hats. So that was different and cool. And they were fancy hats. One guy dressed up Jim Carrey’s character in Dumb and Dumber, in a light blue suit and hat. And he kind of looked like Jim Carrey anyway, so it totally worked!

Mexican Chocolate Martini
The Mexican Chocolate Martini is an 8-ounce drink made with equal parts:
-Home-made chocolate vodka (made downtown at Baileys’ sister establishment, Baileys’ Range)
-Dark chocolate liqueur
-El Set silver tequila
-Spices on the rim of the glass

link: Riverfront Times

Friendly’s Renee DePauli: Featured Bartender of the Week

DePauli with her "Blue Steel" cocktail.

DePauli with her “Blue Steel” cocktail.

Friendly’s Renee DePauli: Featured Bartender of the Week
By Jaime Lees
Wed., Jan. 30 2013 at 12:30 PM
Categories: Girl Walks into a Bar

Welcome to Girl Walks Into a Bar, a weekly Gut Check feature that spotlights local bars and bartenders. This week, Jaime Lees profiles Renee DePauli of Friendly’s. Below is a Q&A with DePauli, followed by the recipe for the Blue Steel.

Friendly’s Restaurant & Pub (3503 Roger Place; 314-771-2040) is a south-city institution. Much more than just a neighborhood sports bar, the business has been at the same address (the corner of Roger Place and Potomac Street) for more than 85 years. Current owner Denny Domachowski has engineered the kind of place that is always welcoming and cheap, making it easy to become an accidental regular.

In anticipation of the Super Bowl this weekend, Gut Check dropped in to Friendly’s for a drink and good conversation with bartender Renee DePauli.

It’s a customer-driven bar, and the management is always willing to give back to the community through gestures like sponsoring a kickball league. And in addition to the current “Home Team Special” (free hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos and bratwursts during the month of February during Blues games), the bar also announces nightly specials on its Facebook page, offering cocktails for a fraction of the price of competing establishments.

There is no shortage of entertainment at this bar, with televisions covering nearly every square inch of wall space and rooms filled with all manner of games, from table shuffle board to pool to foosball and video bowling. The games add an extra layer of energy to bar, which seems to be always humming like a beehive.

At the heart of all of this is Renee DePauli. She’s the unofficial mama bear of the Friendly’s family. DePauli is easy with both a smile and an eyeroll. She has tended bar at Friendly’s for eleven years, and she seems to look upon her patrons as her (drunken) kids. She is universally beloved by the wide variety Friendly’s folk, from college students to wrinkled old regulars. She’s a fan of all sports, but she bleeds Blue, that’s for darn sure. If the Blues are having a bad night, DePauli is having a bad night. But she won’t take it out on you; she’ll just be open to commiserate. (Actual quote: “They were so flat in front of the net. They gave up the puck, like, seven times!”)

We did a quick interview with DePauli while she was behind the always-bustling bar while Modest Mouse’s “Float On” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” blared in the background.

Describe your bartending style in three words.
[Laughs] Old and nasty!

If girl walks into a bar and orders a ____, she has just earned your undying admiration.
A Blue Steel. [Vodka, triple sec, blue Curaçao, sours, club soda]

Other than your own place, where do you go to get a good drink and what do you get?
Jack Patrick’s, a Seven and 7.

What’s one thing most people don’t realize about crafting cocktails or bartending?
People don’t realize how hard you work, but how much fun it really is.

Who would you most like to have a drink with? And why?
My husband, Ed, because I love him.

What is the most bizarre or worst drink that someone has ordered from you?
Well, yesterday someone asked if we had whiskey. And then ordered it. That was a bizarre. I mean, we’re a bar; we have whiskey.

What’s the coolest or weirdest thing that you’ve witnessed while working at Friendly’s?
Can I tell you the funniest? Someone tried to get change out of the ATM machine.

Blue Steel Cocktail

Vodka
Triple sec
Blue Curaçao
Sours
Club soda

DePauli says the Blue Steel cocktail is roughly 3/4 of a glass of vodka with an ounce of the other ingredients.

Depauli's Blues-inspired manicure

Depauli’s Blues-inspired manicure

link: Riverfront Times