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Spirits of St. Louis: Craft cocktail business bubbling up in the Lou

Even in the beer mecca of the Midwest, sometimes you just want something more spirited. These distillers get it.
Credit: Instagram: StilL 630 and 1220 Spirits

This story was first released as 'The real spirits of St. Louis' episode of the Abby Eats St. Louis podcastClick here to listen to the full episode, which includes extra audio and great stories from StilL 630 and 1220 Spirits.

ST. LOUIS — On a hot summer day in St. Louis, there’s not much better than the crisp, popping sound of a can opening.

The satisfaction of that sound—and a sip of something a little stronger than soda—used to be reserved for beer drinkers.

Craving a cocktail instead? On the go?

Good luck and have fun with that mess. Yeah, that’ll have to be a beer.

Until now.

“Well, it seemed like the market was going to head there eventually. We thought, well, it’s a great time to get in on what we think is a no brainer trend,” said StilL 630 owner and operator David Weglarz.

That trend? Canned cocktails.

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“We want to give them a delicious cocktail in the convenience of a can,” he recalled.

He perfectly summed up the predicament so many people in the 21-and-up crowd have found themselves in.

“I don't know if I'm in the mood for another beer right now, and I don’t want a glass of wine. I'd like a cocktail, but I don't know how to make it. You have to get all the ingredients and everything. It's like, I think people get intimidated with all the prep work that goes into making good cocktail,” he explained.

Weglarz said their first venture into the canned cocktail market was “a smashing success.”

The Bee’s Knees uses StilL 630 gin, honey, lemon, ginger and seltzer.

StilL 630 Distillery added a new photo - in St. Louis.

“It’s crisp; it’s refreshing. People seem to really enjoy it, but it was about the portability, the convenience of it and having that ready mixed cocktail because people like that,” Weglarz said.

The guys at 4 Hands get it.

“You read a cocktail menu and you can't pronounce, much less have no idea, what half the ingredients are. That might turn you away from ordering that $12 cocktail,” Lemp said. “We're not trying to replace that by any stretch of the imagination, but we are trying to bring people that might otherwise just say, you know what, give me a beer and say, well maybe I'll try a lavender lemonade. I can try it on a float trip. I can take it with me to Shakespeare in the Park. Our goal is to bridge that gap between the beer drinker and a spirits drinker.”

In the spring of 2018, owner Kevin Lemp started building that bridge by brewing up a whole new brand with distiller Rob Vossmeyer—1220 Spirits.

They have a real can-do spirit… pun intended.

“I'm passionate about putting liquid in cans. Right. That is my passion,” Lemp said. “I think I would say that we just want to make sure that we create things that people enjoy.”

RELATED: 8 places where you can get summer treats infused with booze

But they’re not just shaking up screwdrivers or margaritas. Their canned cocktails are next level—with the intention to introduce spirited drinkers to new combinations.

“Do an Aviation (gin with citrus and violet), have a Lemonade Lavender (made with vodka and natural flavors), do the Gin Boogie (mixed with cherry and lime),” Vossmeyer said.

1220 Spirits uses their own distilled spirits to craft the cocktails. The Cucumber Hibiscus features bright, fresh natural flavors and gin. There also are the classics: Gin and Tonic and Moscow Mule.

“We're being very deliberate and very thoughtful with our approach and passionate. And I really think that that is kind of the ethos of, of both brands,” Vossmeyer added.

The passion projects at 1220 Spirits and StilL 630 definitely are getting people in St. Louis buzzing.

You can try 1220 Spirits’ cocktails on draft at 4 Hands Brewing Co., which is located at 1220 S. 8th Street in St. Louis.

StilL 630 invites the public to check out the distillery and taste their latest experimental spirits on the first Friday of every month. The event is free. The cocktail bar is open from 5-10 p.m. and the experimental release and tasting is at 6:30 p.m.

StilL 630 is located at 1000 S. 4th Street. Weglarz admits the building is “hiding in plain sight.” Just look for the old Hardee’s restaurant converted into a distillery.

More from Abby Eats St. Louis:

About Abby Eats St. Louis

Abby Llorico tells the story of St. Louis based on what’s on the table. From the hunger for local ingredients, to the booming brunch scene and the craving for creative cocktails, Abby dives into the nitty-gritty of how St. Louis grew to become the foodie town that it is.

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