What's one of the hottest spots in the Burgh for a cool refreshing cocktail on a weekend evening in the Burgh? Wigle Barrelhouse and Whiskey Garden! No, not the Wigle distillery on Smallman Street in the Strip, this is their new locale across the Allegheny River from the original. Oh, the Smallman Street location is still whipping up whiskey, ginever...and RUM alright, the casks are just transported across the 16th Street bridge to age in the Barrelhouse.
The new Barrelhouse and Whiskey Garden? It's not just a storage facility. When the garage door rolls up, the bar is open! Umbrella-ed picnic tables to lounge around while enjoying your Wigle-made delight of the day, a few games of cornhole to while away a warm summer evening, all accompanied by great conversation with friends and maybe even a guided tour of the facilities is what awaits at Wigle.
Apparently, this is also where it's happening when it comes to cocktail throwdowns among local bartenders! Twice in one week, I've had the pleasure of being a spectator at some pretty enjoyable contests.
The first (last Sunday) was a USBG (United States Bartenders Guild) event that pitted four teams of 'tenders against one another in a Whiskey Sour-off. Not just any cocktail competition, no...this one was blindfolded, timed AND judged for taste.
Each team consisted of one bartender who made the drink while blindfolded and another who coached the competitor each step of the way. No matter the missed pours (very few), over-pours (not such a bad thing), broken eggs (yes, these Whiskey Sours were beautifully silky) and spills (fortunately contained in a capped shaker), the blindfolded bartending race was a sight to behold.
|Cecil and Max|
The team of Cecil Usher and his coach, Max Stein - both from Meat and Potatoes, Max also from The Butcher and the Rye - were the ultimate champions that night. Two teams from The Summit on Mt. Washington made it quite the contest, but my favorite team - sorry all you guys - was the well-choreographed, simultaneous-mid-contest-shot-swilling team of Carrie Clayton and Abbie Brehm from Bar Marco and The Livermore. The cocktail chicks extrordinaire stole the show! Congrats to EVERYONE!
|Carrie and Abbie|
And yes, I was back again on Friday evening for the release of Wigle's barrel-aged Landlocked Oaked Rum...and yes, yet another bartender challenge highlighted the evening. This one would be a Tiki competition...hellloooo...rum and Tiki go together like, well...rum and Tiki. What a night!
Hawaiian shirts, flowery leis and grass skirts wandered among the tables. Surf Rock sounds by Dr. Zombo and his Zombotron and the scent of coconut (well, maybe I just imagined that...) filled the air.
|Dr. Zombo says hello!|
The contenders this night? Greta Dunn (aka, Greta the Grass Skirt Goddess) from Meat and Potatoes, Craig Mrusek (aka, Dr. Bamboo) from Tender Bar and Kitchen and Will Groves (aka...hey, what IS your aka Will?) from The Butterjoint threw down the Tiki moves! Each contestant used, of course, Wigle's newest release, Landlocked Oaked Rum.
Whether or not Will is aka-less, he did concoct an intriguing little tiki drink called the Coconut Groves...get it...Will Groves. Will's cocktail used Landlocked, coconut cream, lime AND orange juices and a hint of mole bitters. (Maybe I did smell coconut in the air after all?)
Greta, she of the grass skirt goddess fame, presented a little number using similar ingredients to the Coconut Groves, called a Bombora. Similar ingredients, yes, but totally different once all the parts came together.
The Bombora consisted of Landlocked, lime and orange juices, honey, mole bitters and egg white. This Tiki drink had a silken feel as a result of the egg white and the honey. The Bombora was the bomb! (Come on, you knew I couldn't resist that one.)
|Greta the Grass Skirt Goddess|
Who came out on top? Craig Mrusek, Dr. Bamboo! Obviously, the good doctor had the right prescription for the winning Tiki drink of the evening. Craig's cocktail, The Cargo Cult, won by virtue of Landlocked, pineapple juice, a mysterious touch of allspice, finished with just a dash of orange bitters. Congrats, Craig!
What was going on outside while the competition raged inside? Wigle cornhole, of course.
And totally delicious offerings from none other than the Pgh Taco Truck and the Lomito Truck! Gotta have good eats with good booze!
Wigle Barrelhouse and Whiskey Garden might just be THE place to spend a beautiful Pittsburgh summer evening. Casual, laid back, relaxing, a damned fine cocktail in one hand, a taco in the other...kind of like chilling in your own backyard except YOU don't have to clean up after your friends leave. Nice.
And maybe...if you're really, really lucky...a rousing cocktail competition might just break out!
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