With summer winding down, I am stepping up my game about hitting all the places on my list of must-do’s. Yesterday after work my sister, B, and I headed to The Grove area for happy hour at Sanctuaria. Now I have heard nothing but rave reviews about this place and let me say, it met and exceeded them all. I personally love happy hours (I mean who doesn’t??) but for the main benefit that you get to be a bit more adventurous when you’re ordering. With cheaper prices, I am more willing to take a chance on a stranger cocktail or an interesting sounding appetizer.

Sanctuaria is a tapas restaurant but they are best known for their cocktails, more specifically for their famous cocktail club. If you’re not familiar with it, let me give you the low down. For a one time fee of $20 you get access to their exclusive cocktail list – 80 classic cocktails that everyone should try once and 80 of their own creations. As a member you get to order from this list and all the drinks are just $8 (for all those regular people – they’re $10) and you get a nifty little notebook to keep track of all the drinks you try. Personally I think this is a pretty awesome concept and judging by the wall lined with notebooks, so do other people. Alas, since I’m leaving in a week or so (and not sure if I’m coming back to St. Louis… scary…) I didn’t join the club. But we did make our way through some of the list.

To start off I ordered the Enemy of My Enemy (they all have fun little names). Made with Flor de Cana Rum, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon juice, cardamom tincture and a big beautiful sprig of fresh basil, it was sweet and tart all at the same time. The basil really was the best part. Every time I took a sip, the fragrant herb added a whole other layer of flavor.

B couldn’t decide so she told the bartender that she wanted something sweet but a little bitter. He came back with a champagne saucer glass filled with a coral-colored concoction. But before he walked away he pulled out a lighter, lit an orange peel on fire, rubbed the glass with it and dropped it in the drink. It let off such a fragment aroma. And added a nice zest to the drink.

For round two I ordered the Clark – Pepper. It is made with Del Maguey Mezcal, Marie Brizard Apry, orange and lime juices, sage, jalapeño, hot sauce, and club soda. I was a little apprehensive because it sounded super spicy. But like I said, happy hours are the time to try drinks like these, so if I end up not liking it, well I’m only out 7 bucks instead of 9. I did question our wonderful bartender Joel about the level of heat I was about to endure and he assured me that it was spicy but still sweet. Well…I didn’t get much of the sweetness. Wooo, was it hot! It was not like anything I have ever drank before. The heat of the jalapeno hit the back of the throat but in a really interesting way.  It just took me a while to drink it….but I wasn’t going to wuss out and ask for more club soda. I wanted to prove I could handle it. Little did I know, bartender Joel didn’t even add the hot sauce!

That’s the kind of bar Sanctuaria is, they listen to the customers and make drinks that they will enjoy. He saw the hesitation on my face and made the drink a little less hot. He explained that most of the heat comes from the jalapeno anyway because they are muddled with the mezcal (a tequilla-like liquor) and let sit for 24 hours.

B got the Sparkly Gin Fizz for her second drink which was a frothy creamsicle like drink made with Broker’s Gin, lemon and grapefruit juices, honey, rose syrup, cream, cassis, and egg white. I wasn’t a fan, but she enjoyed it.

 {the green diablo sauce was to die for!}

Now onto the food. I can’t say whether the cocktails or the tapas were better so let’s just go with both were a win-win. We started with the Piquillo Poppers with Diablo Verde. It was a set of five roasted red peppers stuff with goat cheese and then fried. It was paired with this incredible spicy green diable sauce. They were a bit messy, but I had no shame in licking the cheesy goodness off my plate. Then we had an order of Papas Rellenas – flash friend balls of mashed yukon potatoes filled with picadillo and spanish cheese. Now I will admit, these were my least favorite thing of the night but they were by no means bad. I’ve just had better. Specifically at Porto’s Bakery in Los Angeles. But they were better when dipped in that diablo sauce from the peppers (we ended up dipping everything in that sauce – soo good).

And finally we ordered the Frita Sliders. Now these were not your ordinary sliders. They were made with a combination of Cuban pork and chorizo and topped with cheese and the best part? Crispy little potato straws. (I’m a sucker for any type of crispy goodness on my burgers, onion straws, potato straws – all yum!) They were served on a sweet roll with a citrus herb sauce. But again we dipped them in the diablo sauce. I could have ordered several more tapas but unfortunately my stomach was full and not cooperating.

Guess that means I’ll have to make another trip to Sanctuaria!


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