East Liberty's Spoon was already one of Pittsburgh's most satisfying — if under-the-radar — cocktail destinations. And it just became even more enticing. Beverage director John Wabeck and his team of bartenders (Holly Fridley, Diego Byrnes, Iva Provias) have introduced a cocktail-tasting menu. Mondays through Thursdays, $25 gets you five cocktails; a taster teaser (three cocktails for $16) is also available.
"We wanted to do something interesting on a day when the bar was a little soft," Wabeck says. "How could we get people in and do something other than a happy hour, or something else we didn't want to do?"
The menu is a sensory journey. "Our goal is to get as many different textures, flavors, and [as much] glassware as we can on one menu," Wabeck says.
Last week's "That's Gintastic" menu — a tour of five different brands of gin — began with a refreshing Antibes Royale, grew savory with a smoked-ramp-flavored "I Found a Gibson in the Woods," cleansed the palate with a cucumber-forward gin and tonic, and ended strong and slightly sweet with "Berlin Station Chief."
Don't worry about getting blitzed on a weekday night: The cocktails are roughly half the size of a standard drink.
Smaller drinks offer some advantages for bartenders. For example, the Berlin Station Chief is best served icy cold; all the easier to keep it that way when you're serving only one ounce of booze. But there are challenges, too. "You really need to pay attention to how much ice you're using and how big the garnishes are," Wabeck says.
Wabeck says the tasting menus are an opportunity for his bartenders to flex their creative muscles, and allows the bartenders to collaborate on a wide array of drinks. Which is why Wabeck and Byrnes spent some downtime last Wednesday night making sure this week's menu would be have the right ebb and flow. "We always have at least three notepads behind the bar," he says.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Iva Provias.)