In 2008, finding a fancy cocktail in Pittsburgh was a challenge. Then Spencer Warren opened Embury, the precursor to the current wave of upscale cocktail bars, downstairs in the Strip's Firehouse Lounge.
Warren was a bit ahead of his time. "Most people didn't realize we were there until 2010," he says. By then it was too late: The bar closed in August 2011.
Warren went on to work in Louisville, San Francisco and Miami, while back home his team of bartenders developed cocktail programs at Salt of the Earth, Spoon, Acacia and other cutting-edge local bars.
Now, for a limited time, Embury is back. For the next five Monday nights, Warren will transform the upstairs bar at Butcher and the Rye into a celebration of Embury's glory days.
Warren says he's launching the pop-up as a mix of nostalgia — he even saved some original Embury wallpaper to help re-create the atmosphere — and a desire to nudge the city's cocktail culture forward again.
"I'm always trying to stay ahead of the game," he says. "We're going to have a lineup of classic Embury cocktails, but we'll also be doing some things that people haven't seen in Pittsburgh."
Take the Embursphere, a cocktail housed in an ice ball. Customers poke a straw through the sphere to enjoy a classic stirred cocktail like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. Warren will also welcome guests with complimentary drinks in the form of Gummi squares. But put aside your memories of frat-house Jell-O shots — these are carefully created cocktail gels.
Look for the drink menu to change each Monday, and expect to see some former Embury bartenders behind the bar. DJ Strobe (Eric Cohen), who used to spin tunes at the old place, provides the music.
But don't try the front door of Butcher and the Rye: The Downtown eatery is closed Mondays. Instead, head down Sixth Street to the emergency-exit staircase. Or as Warren says, "You should look for the red light bulb."