Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Locals Only


As I mentioned earlier, anyone who says you can't get a good drink in Pittsburgh simply isn't looking. In the last 2 -3 years there have been a number of great restaurants and bars in the 'Burgh that have put serious cocktail programs in place. So if it's been a while since your last tour of Pittsburgh's eateries and watering holes, it's time to take another peek and see what's out there.

However, we're not just serving great booze here in Pittsburgh ... we're also making it. In addition to some folks who make award-winning vodka, we've got a brand-spankin' new whiskey distiller. Located right outside downtown in the Strip District, Wigle Whiskey is currently turning out great un-aged rye and wheat whiskey, both of which are stocked by several of Pittsburgh's best eating & drinking joints.

Cocktail scholars and booze geeks alike know that Southwest Pennsylvania was ground zero for the Whiskey Rebellion, and Wigle takes its name from one notable participant (for the full story, visit the distillery and take the tour ... it's well worth it). In fact, whiskey production was once so widespread in Southwest PA that rye was frequently referred to as "Monongahela Rye" for the number of distilleries in the region surrounding one of Pittsburgh's three rivers. Thanks to Wigle, whiskey is once again being produced in our area.

As part of their plan to reintroduce Pittsburghers to their native spirit, the kind people at Wigle host monthly cocktail-making classes, and they recently asked me to swing by and pass along a few tips on how to make decent drinks. They also asked me to come up with an original cocktail using one of their whiskies, so my contribution for the evening was ...


2 oz. Wigle wheat whiskey
1 oz. Basil & black pepper syrup
.75 oz. Fresh lemon juice

Shake everything with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a basil leaf.

Basil & black pepper syrup:

1.5 cups demerara sugar
1 cup water
12-14 basil leaves, torn
2 tsps. freshly-ground black pepper

Combine everything in a saucepan over low/medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved (do not boil). Cover and let sit for 1 hour. Strain out the solids and refrigerate.

I waved this drink under the noses of the powers-that-be at Verde and they liked it enough to put it on the menu (If I haven't mentioned it already, the fine folks at Verde allow me behind the bar a few times a week to make drinks for people and otherwise molest their liquor supply. They're brave souls.)

So if you're somewhere in the general Pittsburgh area, swing by and grab an adult beverage.* And if you prefer the sudsy stuff, Verde also features locally-made beer from East End Brewing, Pennsylvania Brewing, and cider from Arsenal Cider House & Wine Cellar.

*Get some food too. It's really good.