But recreating those cocktails at home is not always easy, and can be downright intimidating at first. And with the pandemic still raging, and current winter temperatures beseeching drinkers to stay at home instead of picking up to-go cocktails as often as they'd like, Pittsburgh has likely gained a lot of novice home bartenders.
With that in mind, Pittsburgh City Paper is offering a beginner’s course on home bartending with eight extremely simple recipes that only require one Pennsylvania-made spirit and one other ingredient. (Note, I am not a perfect mixologist, so adjust these simple recipes as you wish and to your liking.)
Maggie’s Farm Rum Spiced Rum and Coca-Cola
Maggie’s Farm Rum arguably produces the best rum in America (with the awards to back it up), and the Strip District distillery’s Spiced Rum is my personal favorite. Its unique mix of fresh spices — like vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange zest — gives it an amazing flavor that, in combination with just about any mixer, makes for great cocktails. The not-cloyingly sweet and subtle spice of Coca-Cola makes for a perfect accompaniment to the Spiced Rum, and the easiest and best rum and coke around. Stir into a tall glass. Serve over ice. (Note: Coke works better than other colas.)
Wigle Dutch-Style Gin and Sprite
Dutch-Style Gin, or Ginever, is a bit different than what most Americans expect out of gin, and Wigle’s brand offers Pittsburgh that unique taste. Made from a whiskey base, instead of the more popular vodka, Wigle’s Dutch-Style Gin is strong, sweet, and loaded with botanical flavor. As such, I think it works much better with the lemon-lime flavor of Sprite, than with the more popular gin buddy, tonic. Combine the two together, no need for a lemon wedge. This simple cocktail has plenty of scent and flavor without additional aromatics. Stir into a tall glass. Serve over ice. (Note: Sprite works better than other lemon-lime sodas.)
Faber Cold Brew Vodka and milk (or half-and-half)
Let’s be honest, you probably only stock your shelf with coffee liquor to make White Russians. Skip that step by purchasing a bottle of Faber Cold Brew Vodka, which is made in Bucks County. It’s boozy, it’s sweet, it has a hefty coffee flavor, and it is affordable. Add it to some milk, half-and-half, or unflavored dairy substitute, and you have the easiest White Russian imaginable. Stir into a short rocks glass. Serve over ice.
Liberty Pole Bourbon Cream and coffee
Irish Coffee, but a Western Pennsylvania version. Liberty Pole Bourbon Cream is rich, smooth, and delicious. For a perfect Irish Coffee, just mix it into your hot or cold-brew coffee. This one is extremely simple and lets the bourbon cream really shine.
Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey and Red Ribbon Almond Cream Soda
A Western Pennsylvania meets Eastern Pennsylvania simple cocktail. The Almond Cream Soda made by Natrona-based Red Ribbon has a perfect carbonation level and is very sweet. Combine it with Buck’s County-based Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey — which is on the spicier and powerful side — for a sweet and slightly pepper beverage. Stir into a tall glass. Serve over ice.
Gin Gimlet (or make it a Gin Rickey)
One of the newer distilleries in Pittsburgh, Lawrenceville Distilling Co. makes some great gin that is ready-made for gimlets. This recipe is technically three ingredients, but almost everyone has a jar of honey lying around (honey never spoils!). Mix 1 teaspoon of honey with 1 teaspoon of hot water to make a syrup, then combine the syrup with gin and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled glass with a wide mouth. Or for an even easier, and slightly different, cocktail, grab a canned gin gimlet from Lawrenceville Distilling Co., pour it over some ice in a high-ball glass, and top with soda water.
Fall La La La
This cocktail is technically three ingredients, but I am including under the assumption most people either have lemon juice or maple syrup in their fridge. This recipe is directly from Boyd & Blair’s website, which says the maple syrup shines through and provides a great balance of flavor and sweetness. Boyd & Blair operates out of Glenshaw and makes a popular vodka based from Pennsylvania-grown potatoes. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a wide-mouth glass. Boyd & Blair recommends garnishing with a Thyme sprig. A relatively fancy and simple cocktail.
Wigle Amaro Vermut and soda water
A lot of the old-school Italians have left Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy, but walk down Liberty Avenue and you might spot one sipping on a simple drink made of sweet vermouth and soda water. In honor to those Italian-American Yinzers, combine Wigle’s very good Amara Vermut with some soda water for a refreshing and unique cocktail. Wigle describes Amaro Vermut as “herbaceous and complex” and infused with wormwood, cacao nibs, cinnamon, and cloves. It’s a complex replacement to vermouth. Mix the Amaro Vermut in a small glass with soda water and serve on the rocks.