To say Pittsburgh is a proud city is…well…quite the understatement. We’re proud of EVERYTHING from our sports teams, to our bridges, to even our fry-forward sandwiches and salads. And it looks like we have something to add to our sizable brag list, our local distilleries. A few months ago, they killed it at the American Craft Spirits Awards, with Pittsburgh being the most awarded of any city in craft distilling. To put things into perspective, Wigle Whiskey alone brought home 16 medals from this past competition. Whoa.
Speaking of proud, we’re proud to say that we are now owners of a swanky new home bar, the Booze Tube. So our next step is to fill ‘er up! Since Pittsburgh is bursting at the seams with award-winning spirits, we decided to focus our efforts solely on Pittsburgh area products. After some serious boozy research (woe-is-me, right?), we are finally ready to unveil our latest post… “How To Stock a Proper Pittsburgh Home Bar for Your Next Cocktail Party”
First, you need barware: the equipment needed to mix up cocktails
- Cocktail shaker (pint glass top not shown)
- Bar spoon
- Citrus Squeezer
- Ice cube trays plus you’ll need an ice bucket
For a first time glassware buyer, stocking up can seem rather daunting. There’s an endless array of shapes and sizes! No wonder why people throw all of their cocktails into a mason jar and call it a day. No judgment here, I’ve done it plenty of times. But it’s important to understand why every drink has its own particular glass. The right type of glass helps to maintain the essence of a drink and retain its aromas. Plus, presentation is EVERYTHING this day and age, as we document our entire lives through snaps and posts. With that said, you can stock up on a few of the basics that will work for most of the popular cocktails out there. And as you go on, you can continue to add to your impressive drinkware collection. But here’s a good place to start.
1. Rocks Glass (a.k.a Old Fashioned Glass). It’s perfect for cocktails that need to be built in the glass. So, you’re not using a cocktail shaker to “build” the cocktail; you’re mixing it in the same glass in which you’re serving it. This type of glass is wonderful because it can accommodate large ice cubes while still leaving plenty of room to stir. It also has a wide opening so you can really smell all of those aromatics you masterfully selected. We picked this glass up from House 15143. It fits in perfectly with our Pittsburgh themed home bar.
2. Copper Mugs. A must-have glass if you’re drinking a Moscow Mule in this Pittsburgh heat. But really, they’re great for any cocktail that you wish to keep super cold for an extended period of time. These bad boys were purchased from West Elm Bakery Square a few years back.
3. Zombie Glass (a.k.a Collins Glass). ZOMG these glasses are stunning! Hidden Harbor released this brand-new series of Zombie glasses just this past week. They were designed by Pat Lewis, a talented illustrator from right here in the ‘burgh. Pat does much of his professional work for children’s books and magazines, but is an avid tiki-fan and emerging tiki artist in his own right. Zombie glasses should be a staple in any home bar. It’s cylindrical in shape, with a tall, narrow profile. It’s best to stock long and lean glassware like these because larger cocktails tend to get warm in the glass long before you finish them. Plus, filling up those larger cocktail glasses makes it easier for your guests to overindulge. So, be a responsible host and run over to Hidden Harbor and snag a few of these beauties before they’re gone. You and your guests will feel like you’re on an instant vacay when you’re sipping away from one of these Pittsburgh treasures.
4. Tiki Mugs/ Barrel Mugs. These are arguably one of the most festive types of glassware to savor tropical cocktails from. Tiki mugs originated in tiki bars and tropical themed restaurants in the 1960’s, when exotic libations were starting to catch fire, figuratively and literally. These hardy rum barrel tiki mugs are from Hidden Harbor. The one pictured is now out of production, but they are unveiling their new mug, designed by the famous tiki carver and mug sculptor “Crazy Al” Evans from Long Beach, California, later this year. It will be based on two of the Hawaiian-style carvings that Al made for them. And if you haven’t met “Happy”, Hidden Harbor’s 7-foot tall Ku-style tiki, I suggest you go do that ASAP. He’s really fun to take pictures with, especially after a few tiki drinks #nofilterneeded.
5. Snifter. This is a perfect glass for tasting, or drinking neat (no ice). It’s a short, stemmed glass with a wide bottom and narrow top. The wide bottom fits nicely into the hand and allows for the drink to be warmed and swirled as it’s held. This warmth from the hand causes evaporation, which is then trapped by the narrow opening at the top of the glass. This type of glass promotes an overall richer flavor because it allows the drinker to smell the evaporated whiskey everytime he/she goes in for a sip. We use these snifters quite often, especially when we’re hosting out-of-town guests. They’re not allowed to leave until they try all the good Pittsburgh offerings (they don’t put up much of a fight). We picked these great snifters up from Wigle Whiskey. You can find them here.
6. Double Old Fashioned Glass. We absolutely love this double old fashioned glass from Hidden Harbor (I know, they really do have the best glassware). It’s great because it has a wide brim and a thick base, so all the non-liquid cocktail ingredients can be mashed up properly before adding the main liquid ingredients. Plus, once you fill up this glass with your cocktail, the elusive hidden harbor is revealed! Talk about being the host-with-the-most when you’re servin’ up drinks with glasses like these. Watch out now.
Not pictured, pint glasses and wine glasses. You probably already know all about these, you expert, you.
Here’s the fun part! Stocking up on a few core bottles will take your cocktail-making career a long way. Aaaaand, most of the bottles listed below can be purchased from Premium Collection LCB stores around Southwestern Pennsylvania. Easy, right? Here’s what we stocked our home bar with…
White Rum- Strip District, PGH
Unlike other brands that use processed molasses, Maggie’s Farm White Rum is distilled from fermented turbinado, a raw sugar that’s sourced from a true Louisiana sugar cane field. The sugar cane is fermented with a Caribbean-derived rum yeast, then pot distilled for a round, full body and flavor profile. After gradual proofing, the spirit’s profile lingers between a hearty Caribbean rum and those of the French West Indies with a slight grassiness and soft notes of vanilla. If that doesn’t sell ya, check out how many national awards this rum pulled in. Yow-za.
Bourbon- Strip District, PGH
Wigle Whiskey’s Organic Bourbon is fruity, sweet, and closer in character to a traditional Kentucky bourbon. It starts with a mash made up of yellow corn, wheat, and malted barley. It finishes as a clean, refreshing spirit that’s bottled by hand at a staggering 92 proof. Its sweetness is balanced by its subtle raw earthiness and warm baking flavors, like caramel and vanilla. Best served neat or on the rocks, but also makes a great foundation for cocktails. Bye Kentucky, there’s a new bourbon in town. Dahntahn that is.
Vodka- Glenshaw, PA
Rye Whiskey- Strip District, PGH
Wigle Whiskey celebrates Pittsburgh’s long and vibrant whiskey history with this Rye Whiskey. This rye is bold, rich, and spicy. You’ll taste hints of the oak barrel it was aged in alongside some incredibly rich caramel notes. It finishes with a punchy, hardy peppery kiss. It’s made with organic rye, organic wheat, organic malted barley. This is a Pittsburgh home bar must-have, and a perfect conversation starter (or saver) at your next cocktail party. You can tell them that Wigle sources all of its corn, wheat, and rye from farms in and around our region for all their rye and bourbons. Thank you Wigle for working so tirelessly on rebuilding and showcasing our region’s distinctive whiskey taste.
Spiced Rum- Strip District, PGH
Maggie’s Farm Spiced Rum starts with the same turbinado sugar base as their coveted white rum. Then, it’s infused with a blend of eight different spices, including Tahitian vanilla bean, fresh orange zest, nutmeg, and allspice. Unlike so many commercial spiced rums, Maggie’s Farm Spiced is never back sweetened. So it’ll always be light, crisp, and never syrupy. Check out the end of the post, owner Tim Russell shared 3 of his favorite spiced rum cocktail recipes. Kool-Aid Man Voice, Ooooooh Yeah!
Ginever- Strip District, PGH
Wigle Whiskey’s Ginever is truly brilliant. It’ll take you back to the golden days when gin was a whiskey-based spirit, distilled from a copper pot. It starts with a grain mash of rye, wheat and malted barley. The spirit is then infused with an array of complex botanicals, like juniper berries, earthy cardamom, peppery cubeb, and fragrant lavender. It’s round and full, yet crisp and refreshing. It has such a layered flavor experience that even the most seasoned whiskey and gin drinkers nod their heads and raise their glasses in approval. Cin Cin!
Moonshine- Sewickley, PA
Bitters- Strip District, PGH
Bitters are like the spice cupboard of the cocktail world. You can develop drastically different cocktail flavor profiles with a dash or two of these highly concentrated mixes of alcohol (in this case wheat whiskey) and lots of botanicals. Before Prohibition, bitters were used in all sorts of cocktails. Unfortunately, once Prohibition made law enforcement to go into full crack-down mode on all alcohol related beverages, most of the bitters brands disappeared. Thanks to a recent surge of interest in craft cocktails, bitters have been making a yoooooudge comeback.
Wigle Whiskey has graced Pittsburgh with four different types of bitters; Aromatic, Rosemary Lavender, Pomander Orange, and Mole. We put them in everything from from cocktails, tea, to hot chocolate. Heck, we even made ice cream with them! These bitters are truly a Pittsburgh gem, and definitely a must-have in your home bar.
Barmy Soda- East End, PGH
Beyond the Booze
Sometimes, you’re not in the mood for a cocktail. Sometimes, you just want a beer. And that’s A-OK. So, we’ve selected two of our all-time favorites from East End Brewing Co. as alternative drink options for those guests feelin’ the suds instead.
Beers- East End, PGH
This brewery holds a very special place in our hearts. Owner of East End Brewing, Scott Smith, was one of the first brewers we worked with when we started the blog back in 2013. We were working on another upcycling project; turning his spent grains into pizza dough. Absolutely delicious, by the way. Anyway, we got hooked and we’ve been making the trek over to the East End ever since to quench our thirsts on his delicious brews.
Coincidentally, we met Jason Harris, (the picker who sold us the vintage TV) at the East End brewery during some fun beer event. I think his forearm tattoo of East End’s first logo must have caught our eyes… (picture at the end of post)
So it only felt natural to suggest a few of our favorite light and dark brews from East End. The R & R Helles lager is crisp, light, and refreshing. For those looking for a dark brew, we suggest the SteelCut Oatmeal Stout, hop forward with a distinctive oat presence. It’s a wonderful choice because it’s lighter in alcohol, and pairs nicely with cheese, meat, and chocolate, (a.k.a cocktail party food).
The most important take-away from this post is to always stock your home bar with products you love. We are head over heels for our local offerings, and now our home bar now reflects that. Remember the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? This holds true for your bar, too. Visit these local spots, learn about their products and their stories, and you can start to build your own bar based on what you discover. I hope you enjoyed and even learned a thing or two about how to set up a crowd-pleasing Pittsburgh-centric home bar. I know we had a ton of fun doing this. If you have any questions, ask away. We’ll help you out as much as we can. As always,
Cheers N’at Devon and Tim
Do not attempt to make a home bar (booze tube) like this without enlisting the help of a professional who is an expert with handling and disposing hazardous waste. Old TV’s have dangerous materials inside- do not attempt to clear out the TV by yourself.
Maggie’s Farm Rum Recipes for Spiced Rum
Spiced Rum Sour:
2oz Maggie’s Farm Spiced Rum
0.75oz Fresh-Squeezed Lemon Juice
0.5oz Simple Syrup
Combine ingredients in a shaker with 6oz ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a coupe glass. Make this a true “sour” cocktail by adding one egg white to your cocktail shaker for a creamy texture.
2oz Maggie’s Farm Spiced Rum
0.75oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
0.5oz black tea infused simple syrup
Combine ingredients in a shaker with 6oz ice. Shake vigorously and pour out into tall glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge. (substitute 1½oz Lemonade and 1½oz Iced Tea, then pour over ice for a simpler version)
1.5oz Maggie’s Farm Spiced Rum
0.5oz simple syrup
0.5oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
0.5oz Maggie’s Farm Falernum
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Pour all ingredients over crushed ice and “swizzle” or stir.