SanctuariaNovember 4, 2011
Cocktail Bar of the Year
Name of Bar: Sanctuaria
Location: St. Louis, Mo.
Square Footage: 3,400
Open Date: Dec. 10, 2009
The bar program at Sanctuaria is different from most bars out there. We do not carry mass-marketed brands..to a point. We have no Grey Goose, ABSOLUT, Dewar’s, Jack Daniel's or Jim Beam. Those products are great. There is a reason they are in over 95% of bars worldwide. Yes, marketing has a lot to do with it, but most of them don’t suck. However, we carry small batch, lesser-known products because we are the smaller brand. We are a self proprietorship, and we are using the smaller guys to help us out. As a bar, we are their platform to shine and vice versa. We stand out. No Red Bull, no Grey Goose, no Ketel One. “So what do you have?” is the common question. There’s our ploy. Reel them in with the unknown and take the time to educate our clientele. I can’t speak enough great words about our staff at Sanctuaria. They bought into the concept from day one, and I trained them hard from day one. Do you know how awesome it is to hear a server on the second day of being open tell a guest, “Sorry sir, we don’t carry Grey Goose. But we do have an awesome substitute called Purus Organic Wheat Vodka. It’s made from wheat just like Grey Goose. Would you like to try it?”
We make our own liqueurs, bitters, tinctures, syrups and juices. We use fresh ingredients as much as possible. We have three barrel programs going on, cocktails on tap and an aged-beer list. We use antique glassware and antique glass jiggers. We don’t wear vests and ties – you can find us in T-shirts and jeans. Why? It’s more inviting. The clothes we wear do not affect the quality of the drinks we create. We have been dubbed the “Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars.” We like the fact we can serve you a Budweiser and a Wellington; a vodka tonic followed by a Fox River. We can make almost anything your heart desires. We’ll do our best to accommodate; hospitality is the name of our game.
We fine strain all of our up drinks. We do this because we shake and stir for a set amount of time to make sure the dilution of the cocktail is correct. If we didn’t fine strain, the drink would have ice chips floating in it that would eventually melt, diluting the drink even further, messing with the way it should taste. We “perfume” our cocktails. There’s the essence of citrus in your drinks, not an overwhelming oily surface covering them. We garnish with wedges of fruit, as well as wheels. You may want more citrus in your Daiquiri so squeeze it in there. We make twists with vegetable peelers because it removes the citrus skin with very little of the bitter pith. We use Kold-Draft ice, as well as crushed ice. Why? Because it makes it TASTE better!!!! Don’t want liquor? Check out our beer and wine lists. Not in the mood for a buzz? Check out our alcohol-free cocktails and juice offerings. They are not mocktails or Prohibition coolers. We take as much care and pride in the cocktails we serve that do not contain alcohol as the ones that do. It’s borderline obsession. Last, but not least, we measure. The only reason we do so is that we want your drink to taste the same whether me, Joel, Ryan, Tim, Lindsay, Virginia or any other bartender makes it for you. It takes time, yes. But we’re pretty fast.
Our theme is El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which includes lots of skeletons, lots of Latin American vintage posters and a huge metal tree made of bones, naked ladies in paintings, and an angel I would love to marry, as well as 200-year-old sculptures and a garden out of our back door with the freshest herbs and produce.
We also have a Cocktail Club. Below are the nuts and bolts of it, followed by the cover and first two pages. The Club Menu consists of 150 drinks. The first 80 are classics, and the last 70 are our own creations.
The Sanctuaria Cocktail Club is an exclusive club in which members will have the opportunity to not only order libations from the Club Menu but receive discounts on any events, tastings and seminars held at Sanctuaria, as well as receive discounts on retail items and can be entered into a monthly drawing to receive bottles of selected spirits and/or wines. Once you have filled out the registration form and have paid your one time Membership Dues of $20, you will receive the following**:
- Membership Tracking Card
- A book for your tasting notes
- First drink on us
- Instant 10% off retail purchases and any event, seminar, or tasting held at Sanctuaria
- Entry of your name into a monthly drawing, where the winner will receive a complimentary bottle of liquor, liqueur, bottle of wine, or a nice beer selection
- Special pricing of $8 for any cocktail on The Club List (non-members fee is $10)
Once you have savored all of the cocktails and your card is fully marked, you will receive the following**:
- Metal card that entitles you to every third drink ordered per visit to be charged to the house – for the life of the bar
- 15% discount on all events, seminars, and tastings at Sanctuaria
- 15% discount on all retail items
**These benefits are for the member ONLY. No one else in your party, unless a member as well, can receive these benefits. Members are NOT to buy a drink off of the Club Cocktail Menu for any other person, nor can they receive a mark for a cocktail they did not drink themselves. Any infractions will result in cancellation of membership and all benefits.
So why do we do this? We are building and nurturing cocktail culture in St. Louis. What better way to do so than to create an environment in which guests are voluntarily forced to try things they wouldn’t otherwise? They have to complete the list to get the benefits. They have to drink gin and a lot of it! Will they like everything? Probably not. But they’re exposed to several hundred flavor combinations, some of which lead to further experimentation at home.
We also are building a regular clientele. People come here not only for the atmosphere and the drinks, but also because they are a PART of something - a club. It’s a great business decision. We know many of the members’ first names, kids’ names, professions, etc. This Club has helped us build our own version of the TV show "Cheers."
Last, it’s pure fun for the guests and for us. The guests like the many options of palate pleasers. We like the many options to draw from. We also like the creativity it spurs in us. We’ll modify a classic, tweak a creation of our ow, or a combination thereof in order to create a completely new drink for our seasonal list. Again, just pure fun.
The culture we have built here at Sanctuaria is absolutely remarkable. We never thought the Club would grow to the extent it has. Since we were expecting about 150 members after a year’s time, you can imagine how blown away we are at the 500+ members we have accrued in UNDER a year's time. With so many patrons and regulars, we decided at a very early stage in this Club to venture outside of our normal operation and host special events and have “club” parties. The following paragraphs give details on a few of those.
Cocktails By Candlelight (CBCL)
This concept was spawned by the events of New Year’s Eve 2010. That morning, I received a call from Wil, our chef de cuisine, telling me that our power was out, and we needed to prepare for the party. We were told that power would be back by 4:30 p.m., but knowing better, we planned for the worst. A make-shift kitchen was built out of butane burners, a turkey deep fryer and a tent. Three hundred candles were bought for lighting. Decorations were set up. The place looked stunning. A romantic evening was to be had by many. Virginia called all the reservations to inform them of the power outage and our preparations with candles, and inquired if they would still be joining us. One reservation canceled.
The guests who walked in without a reservation thought we did this on purpose. They were as amazed as we were at the look and feel of the place. We supplied mini flashlights to peruse the menu (the candles were not high enough illumination). We hand-wrote orders, and things were going so well. Then, at 9:30 p.m., electricity was restored. One table cheered. All the rest booed, wanting the lights to be turned off. The candles stayed lit, we scurried to get the point-of-sale (POS) system up and running, and the night continued without a hitch.
After seeing the glowing reception (pun intended) of people to the lack of electricity, we decided to pay homage to the events of that night by recreating the atmosphere. No lights, not even in the bathrooms. No POS systems turned on except for one in the service well. We decided to charge a per-head fee instead of having individual items priced. A small selection of food and drinks are offered, but there was no limits to guests' indulgences. We found better candles that provided ample light so no flashlights are needed. We also decided to donate 10% of the proceeds from each event to a local charity. Lastly, each event has a different theme.
Every week, we have a Happy Hour all night long for members only. If you are a member, cocktails from the list of 150 are normally $8 instead of $10, but on Wednesdays those 150 libations only cost $7. Our self-proclaimed “ambassador” of the club, Jacqui, and her crew come up with a camera in hand, a photo journal of the evening’s events and drinks. Check out our Facebook page, Sanctuaria Cocktail List Fan Club, for those photos.
Sample of Training Manual
Our “Rail” Selections
We don’t really have a “rail” anything due to the nature of our program. But when most people hear rail, they think least expensive. So, here is our least expensive alcohol.
Gin = Broker’s; a London dry gin. Comparable to Bombay, Beefeater or any other London Dry.
Tequila = Espolon Blanco; very smooth tequila, not aged, comparable to Patron in taste, but at less than half the cost.
Whisky = W.L. Weller; very sweet and approachable whisky; good caramel notes with lots of vanilla and baking spice.
Rum = Flor de Caña; a white rum from Nicaragua, great molasses flavor, our "Bacardi”
Scotch = Lismore; a single malt with subtle smokiness and light flavor of oak and peat that fades fast.
Vodka = Ruskova; traditional Russian vodka made from a blend of wheat and rye, it’s smooth with a light creaminess. It's six-times distilled.
Rye whisky = Old Overholt; ryes tend to be a bit spicier than their bourbon or other whisky counterparts. This one is no exception.
Cognac = Camus VS; a bit sweet on the front, but finishes with nice barrel notes.
Our Other Base Spirits
Moon Mountain = our version of Ketel One, very flavorful vodka that is distilled in a pot – just like Ketel One.
Boyd & Blair = Potato vodka from Pennsylvania. Creamy, rich, and full bodied.
Purus = top shelf, 100% organic wheat vodka.
Hendrick’s = one of the recognizable brands; we carry this because it is a quality and unique gin from Scotland that has hints of cucumber and rose petals which complement the juniper.
Plymouth = this is one of four major categories of gin as well as a brand; it is slightly malty and has a lighter juniper component compared to traditional London Dry gins. Many classic recipes specifically call for Plymouth.
Tanqueray 10 = we carry this brand because it is a small batch product, completely different from the original Tanqueray. It’s made with 10 types of botanicals, herbs, and roots. A bit citrusy and floral, but the juniper is still there.
Hayman’s Old Tom = this was the gin of the 19th century, one of the most common in the US. Basically this is a sweetened London Dry. Juniper is still the dominant flavor, but it is subdued due to the sweetness. It just recently made it back onto the US market. FYI, the Tom Collins got its name from this specific style of gin.
Ransom Old Tom Gin = made from a malted grain mash, which gives it the characteristic smooth / sweeter flavor. It’s still gin, but a sweeter style. This one differs from the Hayman’s Old Tom in that it is aged for a few months in oak barrels, hence its amber hue.
North Shore #6 = a dry style gin, highlighting lavender and lemon peel. Very light and crisp. Similar to Bombay Sapphire due to its floral and citrus highlights.
North Shore #11 = traditional gin, heavy on the juniper. Great Tanqueray substitute.
North Shore Mighty Gin = this is a higher proof version of North Shore #6. It has a little bit of a bite to it, but still retains that lavender and lemon peel.
Bitter Truth Sloe Gin = some sloe gins are gin infused with sloe berries (also known as blackthorn berries), cinnamon, clove, sugar, and sometimes almonds. Some are made with neutral grain spirits. This one is lighter on the sugar, so it’s not nearly as sweet as the other commercial brands. It still has that tart sloe berry flavor with subtle hints of clove and cinnamon.
Growth of Business
We’ve only been open two years. Our first year’s sales were $406,828.05. Our second year sales as of now are $804,139.49. That’s a growth of 97.6% in just one year; ur sales are increasing every month.