Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pittsburgh Cocktail Week...What a Week It Was!

Before I go any further, let me first thank my designated driver throughout this very first Pittsburgh Cocktail Week...without you this week could never have been the tour de force de cocktails that it truly was. Thanks, Mark! It was a tough job and somebody had to do it. (Glad it wasn't me.)

Although the event ran for an entire seven days, as hard as I tried I couldn't begin to make it to every bar and restaurant participating in the week. Nor could I make it to every special seminar or event, but I gave it my all. There were industry events: an Agave seminar at Verde, Ice Carving at Livermore, a Wigle Distillery seminar on aging, a tour and tasting at Boyd and Blair Distillery.

Boyd and Blair - tour and tasting

Tender hosted a seminar entitled "Drink What You Like and Like What You Drink, led by Johnny Foster and Butterjoint conducted a hands-on class on shrubs and preserves as used in cocktails.

Ground Cherry Pineapple Shrub in process at Butterjoint - Now THAT'S a muddler!

Started at Butterjoint, finished in my kitchen - YUM!

Not to be forgotten, cool events for you and me were held, too. The bartenders at Verde had folks step right up to the bar for a hands-on class in making the perfect margarita, Livermore's Giuseppe Capolupo taught a few basic tricks to carve your own ice at home, Wigle conducted an aged whiskey tasting that SOLD OUT quickly! 

There was a cocktail and food pairing class at Industry, South Seas Thursday at Tiki Lounge with Lucky the Painproof Man and totally amazing, authentic tiki drinks using the best rums and liquors, fresh squeezed juices and handmade syrups. 

(Heads up....Lucky takes over Tiki Lounge and creates these EVERY Thursday from 4 - 9 PM, not just for Pittsburgh Cocktail Week!)

Lucky the Painproof Main, Tiki Bartender Extrordinaire

(I'm not saying this tiki mug got the Pirates into the playoffs, but....)

Probably the most exciting happening during the week (for me, anyway!) was the cocktail competition going on all around the town! Restaurants and bars entered one or more cocktails into several categories. This is where my designated driver came into play...the fun was in trying cocktails in various spots, voting on them via an app called Grail. The developers of Grail, Rhomania, are right here in Pittsburgh! (Check out Grail and all the cool things it does and restaurants it carries right here.

At the end of Pittsburgh Cocktail Week, a winner was declared and won $1,000 in barware! Not bad for the very first ever event!  I won't tell you right now who won, but I DID get to enjoy the winning entry early in the week. 

It was impossible to get to every spot and to sample every least for me it was. I did hear rumors that an attempt was made by at least one hardy soul! Here are (some of) the cocktails I tried.

Oaxacan Campfire by Hannah Morris - Verde Mexican Kitchen

The Secret Garden by Erika Joyner - Salt of the Earth

Amelia's Last Flight by Sean Rosenkrans - Tender Bar and Kitchen

Pittsburgh Sour by Chris Matrozza - Franktuary

Billy Porter's Kinky Boots by RaeLynn Harshman & Alyssa McGrath - Dish Osteria

Looks like a whole lot of was...and that's just the ones that were photographed! Then there were those that were shared among we cocktail geeks and afficianados. Fun times! 

As said earlier, I just managed to scratch the surface of the creative libations to be had. Giving it a go EVERYWHERE was impossible! I missed Pittsburgh Cocktail Week specialty drinks at Harvard and Highland, Bar Marco, Livermore, Benjamin's, Tamari in Warrandale, Spoon, Industry Public House, Meat & Potatoes (yeah, I can't believe I didn't get there either!), Butterjoint - but I got there for that fabulous Shrub class!, Toast, Speakeasy, Pino's or Lidia's. NEXT YEAR!

But what about THIS year's winner? That would be the lovely Erika Joyner with her creation using Wigle Ginever, cucumber mint syrup, lime juice and eucalyptus bitters called The Secret Garden. Well deserved, Erika! 

If you didn't get to participate in Pittsburgh Cocktail Week THIS year, start planning for next year. Next year will be even bigger...and hard to believe as it is...BETTER! 'Til next year. (I think my liver will enjoy the break.) 

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