Many Royale customers, I’m sure, assume that the Mr. Smith cocktail is named after Royale proprietor Steven Smith — or at least his father, who’s also a part owner of the business and, truth be told, whose first name I can’t remember because “Mr. Smith” was all I ever called him.
But none of that has anything to do with the Mr. Smith. The Mr. Smith is named after Jeff Smith, who might also be addressed as The Former Honorable Jeff Smith, Ph.D. Jeff was the subject of a documentary, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?, about the time he popped his campaign cherry running for the congressional seat vacated by veteran Rep. Dick Gephardt, and how he narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Russ Carnahan, son of a famous Missouri politician, and how he was a short, Jewish, basketball-loving UNC grad.
Post-documentary, Jeff ran for a state senate seat, which he won. He then abdicated the seat a couple years later after pleading guilty to a cover-up concerning questionable campaign materials stemming from his congressional campaign. He went to federal prison for a year and a day.
If you’re an STLer, you can probably recite this whole saga backwards and front. If you’re not, I tell you all this because the documentary’s worth a rental and because all the shit that came after it is just so unbelievable.
I served Jeff at The Royale a good handful of times. He would come in pretty-late-to-late, drink a bit more than modestly, and was loud in a way that was vibrant rather than obnoxious. He’s one of those people who will somehow scam a smile out of you — whether or not you’re in a good mood, whether or not you know him, whether or not you’d already decided that you don’t like the guy (which was sometimes the position I took as he was, after all, a Tar Heel). Only after you found yourself smiling at his presence and demeanor would it occur to you that the guy has never bothered to remember your name. A politician!
But hey, fair’s fair, so let me say: The Mr. Smith, which I believe Jeff verily invented himself, or at least he contributed heavily to its creation — is a nifty sipper, an improbable collusion of four disparate tastes that taste mighty fine together, just the sort of aisle-bridging stuff I’m sure Jeff was into.
The Mr. Smith
(Adapted from The Royale)
2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin
About 3 ounces ginger beer
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
A dash of mint-infused simple syrup
Build this drink in a highball glass: syrup first, then gin, juice and beer. Stir briskly. Optional garnish with mint sprig.
We didn’t use Hendrick’s for this at The Royale, I think we used Bombay Sapphire. I just thought the Hendrick’s quixotic taste would add a little something.