I’ve been waving this banner my entire cocktail-drinking life. I had my first run-in with gin – which I believe was from a clear plastic bottle with G-I-N in big black letters on a white label – some 20+ years ago. With the fervor of a teetotaler, I have eschewed gin, turned my nose up at the idea, and openly chided friends who would freely choose a gin cocktail.

Then there is the Subcontinental at The Royale: gorgeous and green; fresh and refreshing; exotic and delicious. And loaded with gin … good gin … Bombay Sapphire, to be exact.

The life changing elixer: The Subcontinental.

Before I ever read the description on the menu, I saw it served to another patron. What intrigued me was the color. Served in a rocks glass, this original cocktail from the creative minds of proprietor Steve Smith and his long-time friend, Tim O’Connell, is the color of grass.*

When I asked the bartender about the lovely green drink, he launched into a near poetic description. This isn’t some fruity drink that’s all greened-up with Midori. No, no, no. The green comes from cucumbers; whole, beautiful cucumbers that Steve and his staff juice – skin and all – fresh every day.

And then he said the word I dreaded to hear: “Gin.” Gasp and heartbreak. I was all in up to that point. Geez louise, I HATE GIN. How could I reconcile my strident position on gin?

So, I simply contemplated the Subcontinental for several months. I sat on it. I struggled with the idea. I wanted to make this work. Cucumbers in cocktails was just too much to pass up and overlook. This was damned near a moral dilemma.

Then, on a clandestine evening that began as a simple dinner date at The Royale with my sweet husband, things took a turn. When the way-cooler-than-me waiter came to the table, I timidly asked him about the Subcontinental. When he noted my hesitation over the “gin situation,” he suggested that he could make the drink with vodka (that my friends, is booze I do NOT hate!). He also noted, with an air of sadness that verged on grief, that the cocktail would not be nearly as good.

I gave in. I argued with myself that it was worth the $7** gamble. I ordered up the Subcontinental.

And it was life changing.

When I lifted the glass to take my first sip, the fresh scent of summertime filled my nose. (This is an especially wonderful experience during the dead of winter.) The drink itself was savory with and edge of sweet. It was lovely, and smooth, and I had an uncustomary change of heart.

Perhaps, in the context of the Subcontinental, not only do I not hate gin … but I LOVE GIN.

I’m glad I opened up. This sort of conversion makes me wonder – in my foodie mind – what else I need to try that I maybe haven’t liked so much in the past.

So, while I think about what I might try next, I offer you a hearty “sláinte!”*** and encourage you to open yourself up to the possibilities you may have shut down because of one bad experience. You might find that you like to Eat It, St. Louis!

The Royale
3132 South Kingshighway Boulevard
Saint Louis, MO 63139-1108
(314) 772-3600

* Unfortunately, you’re stuck with my not-so-fabulous photography. This picture doesn’t even begin to do the drink justice.

** On Sundays, the Subcontinental is just $5 … what a deal!

*** Sláinte (pronounced Slan-cha) is the traditional Irish toast. It translates literally to “health.”

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