Building A Better Bar

It’s the start of a new year, and I’m really excited about all of the photography I’m going to be shooting in 2013. My calendar is filling up again now that the wheels of industry are getting moving again after a long holiday vacation, and as we get really to roll up our sleeves and get to work, I wanted to share one of my last big projects from 2012.

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Blood & Sand

Last month I was given an assignment to photograph Blood & Sand for Feast Magazine. Unlike other speakeasy-style bars in St. Louis, you don’t enter this one through a back door in an alley by the dumpsters. Tucked away on a side street off of Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis is a small set of stairs which leads to a classy wood and glass revolving door. A small silver plate which says Blood & Sand is the only exterior adornment. Despite the fact that it is easy to find, the occasionally seedy atmosphere of it’s location adds the necessary clandestine feel.


T.J. Vytlacil, Mixologist at Blood & Sand in St. Louis, MO

Through the revolving doors you go, and enter a surprisingly large bar area separated from an even larger dining room area by hanging antique windows (a design element I aspire for my own loft). The feel of this joint is definitely that of a mixture of antique and modern elegance and style. And that is kind of the point. Blood and Sand is meant to make you feel like you’re in a private club, and indeed, you are. A monthly membership fee is required to eat and drink at Blood & Sand, currently a modest $15 per month.

Why member’s only? The idea is to give each and every customer a personalized experience and to develop a relationship with everyone who patronizes the establishment. From the Blood & Sand website: “We are members-only for this reason: we are deeply committed to providing unparalleled service and an extraordinary dining and drinking experience. The meaningful relationships we create with our members and their guests are the source of our inspiration.”

Behind the bar you’ll find dozens of varied and interesting glassware, may of them one-of-a-kind. You’ll also see a wide variety of liquors, bitters, tinctures, simple syrups and garnishes that mixologist T.J. Vytlacil uses to create custom cocktails. I’m a man of simple tastes myself (give me some Irish whiskey on the rocks if you want to make me happy) so I tend to gravitate towards the classics like the old-fashioned and the Manhattan. But whether you are plain jane imbiber or a bit more adventurous, T.J. will find the perfect cocktail for you


Scallop Ceviche and Fried Chicken at Blood & Sand in St. Louis, MO.


Chef Chris Bork at Blood & Sand in St. Louis, MO

I didn’t get a chance to try the food that I photographed (above) but I’ve been back in a social capacity several times and grabbed some drinks and food with several of my friends. Chef Chris Bork has developed a great menu of small dishes, and at this point I think we’ve at tried most of the menu. The hand made tater tots are a must have, and then I have one word for you: sweatbreads. If they have sweatbreads on the menue when you visit Blood & Sand: get the sweatbreads. And of course the cocktails are intense, interesting and inventive. Bottoms up!