First, the sticker shock: You'll have to shell out $9 for initial access to Brandt's bloody mary buffet, available from 9 a.m. till noon Saturday and 9 a.m. till 2 p.m. Sunday. After you pick between premium and rail vodka, you've got the run of Brandt's buffet table, and there are more accoutrements to choose from than there are sides at a Thanksgiving dinner: Dress up your drink with olives or jalapeños, pepperoni or bouillon cubes or limes, wasabi or cocktail onions, and finish it off with a splash of Worcestershire sauce, Clamato, Tabasco and/or a shake of black or red pepper flakes. Your server is happy to guide first-timers through it all, but if the onslaught of options makes your head spin worse than thinking about last night's shots, refer to Brandt's recipe cards for a dozen or so ideas, from the classic mary to the clever Mr. T (one ingredient: guts). The first one's always the hardest, but after that it's just $2 for each following shot of rail vodka and continued access to the buffet. Think of it this way: Each successive mary lowers your overall cost-per-drink average!
In south St. Louis County, O'Leary's fire doesn't refer to Chicago's bovine-ignited inferno of legend, but rather to the one that started unceremoniously in a trash can at O'Leary's, the bar, and eventually consumed the place in September 2006. It reopened six months later, just in time for St. Patrick's Day, and now a partially melted flat-screen television mounted over the entrance serves as a souvenir of sorts, perhaps a subliminal reminder of the importance of fire safety. Along with its affable owner, Kevin O'Leary, the bar's part-owned by his childhood buddy (and Affton favorite son) John Goodman. Though the actor now calls New Orleans home, he'll pop in for karaoke nights from time to time, and some of his Affton High School memorabilia still adorns the walls. O'Leary's menu alerts customers to his favorites (the steak sandwich is one), and it's further enhanced by early-bird bargains, happy hours and innovative mixed drinks. Be sure to note the day's specials: Last time we visited, every burger came with a free car wash.
What's not to love about the Grove? This stretch of Manchester Avenue continues to blossom with new bars, clubs and restaurants that cater to all kinds of clientele. The Gramophone opened this year with the mission of uniting the disparate strands of this city's music scene, all while serving fresh, inventive cocktails. The bar hosts DJs and live music nearly every night, and everything from folk to jazz to hip-hop is welcome on the venue's tiny stage. But while live music is all fine and good, you're out for a drink. The Gramophone has you covered, offering a cocktail menu with drinks inspired by pop songs (like the Sunshine Superman and the Raspberry Beret). The vibe is warm and inviting, and the low lights and leather seats on the mezzanine exude a lounge-like atmosphere — minus the pretension.
The word "margarita" is thrown around far too liberally. In its true form, the margarita is one of the best drinks out there: both refreshing and warming, both easy-drinking and sophisticated. But all too often, the appellation is attached to the Mountain Dew-hued travesties that appear at just about every subpar Tex-Mex joint north of Nuevo Laredo. Las Palmas, an outstandingly authentic Mexican restaurant in Woodson Terrace, serves margaritas that put most others to shame. You won't find any premade margarita mix here. Instead, the drinks are prepared fresh, using your choice of Las Palmas' premium tequilas (there are more than 50 available, including Del Dueño and the ever-popular Patrón). The fresh lime juice used here is light-years better than sour mix (and by removing that chemical-y abomination from the equation, Las Palmas' bartenders really allow the warming tequila to be the dominant note). When the margarita craving strikes, you might not think immediately think of heading north toward the airport, to a friendly Mexican restaurant in a nondescript strip mall – but really, you should.