Sean Enright's plan was simple: Flee the suburbs, head to town and create one of the best craft-cocktail bars in Pittsburgh.
After a year of running Sewickley's Andora restaurant, Enright was hired as general manager at Spoon in East Liberty last month. Since then, he's fashioned an innovative new craft-cocktail menu with bar manager Heather Perkins ... and inspired a few other local bartenders to leave their old homes.
Allie Contreras, who quit Embury in May, recently "heard it through the grapevine" that Enright was back in town and decided to sign on.
"Everybody loves Sean -- that's why they want to work with him," says Contreras.
Indeed, she's been joined at Spoon by Eleven bartender Joe Matthews and Rob Ricci, a distiller for Boyd & Blair and bartender at Park Bruges.
Enright swears he didn't set out to raid other establishments of their talent.
"I'd like to think I was nefarious enough to be able to poach people" from other bars, says Enright. But the new talents "have come to me."
Enright is a familiar name in the Pittsburgh cocktail/restaurant scene. He's served as wine director for several restaurants, including Eleven, Casbah and Soba, and trained with craft-cocktail veteran Fred Sarkis during his stint at Embury.
Spoon's new drink menu is organized under a handful of categories -- "Invigorating," "Intoxicating" and "Communal"; Enright says it's a playful attempt to mimic wine lists that group wines into categories like "bold" or "full-bodied." As a good introduction to the menu, try "Vancouver in a Glass" ($10), an urbane sibling of the "Rusty Nail": 2 oz. Famous Grouse; ½ oz. Tupelo honey; ½ oz. lemon juice; ½ oz. ginger syrup; and a splash of smoky Laphroaig floating on top.
If all goes as planned, Enright says, Spoon will compete with Embury and Salt of the Earth as the place to grab quality craft cocktails in the city. But he jokes that he may have to steal "the Salt girls from [Kevin Sousa]" if he gets the chance.