Local bartenders recommend quarantine cocktails for at-home use | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Local bartenders recommend quarantine cocktails for at-home use

click to enlarge Paloma - CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
CP Photo: Maggie Weaver
With city bars closed, I have been forced to become my own bartender. And over the last month, I’ve realized that at-home bartending doesn’t always result in gorgeous — or delicious — cocktails. More often than not, it’s a routine of staring at half-empty liquor bottles to somehow will them into a cocktail, before begrudgingly pouring the same gin and tonic I had yesterday.

But being stuck at home shouldn’t mean I, or anyone, has to suffer without a good cocktail. I’ve invited a few of the city’s bartenders to give cocktail recommendations for those new to at-home bartending, each one tackling some of the more confusing or harder-to-use liquors. If you’re in a cocktail rut, try your hand at one of these recipes. (And don’t forget to tip your bartender! Find individual Venmos and social media paired with the bartenders’ names or consider contributing to the United States Bartenders Guild COVID-19 relief fund.)

Triple Sec
It may seem like there’s no use for this orange liqueur beyond a margarita, but Ariel Scalise (on Instagram @ariel__scalise), a bartender at Quantum Spirits in Carnegie, suggests adding half an ounce to a screwdriver. A similar tactic works with mimosas; a bar spoon of any orange liquor brightens the drink.

Kaitlin Fellers (Venmo @kaitlinfellers), from Commerce Bar and Kingfly Spirits, calls vermouth the “unsung hero of so many classic cocktails.” One of her many recommendations for the fortified wine is the classic Americano.

1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
1 1/2 ounces Campari

Build over ice in a Collins glass. Top with sparkling water and more ice if needed.

Scalise drinks her vermouth straight, neat, or on rocks. If that makes you nervous, she recommends trying it with soda and a twist of lemon.

For a tequila drink that’s not a margarita, try another Fellers recommendation, the Paloma.

2 ounces blanco tequila
3/4 ounce simple syrup or agave syrup
3/4 ounce grapefruit juice
3/4 ounce lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake and strain into a Collins-style glass, then top with sparkling water and ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.

For negroni-lovers (and those who have a fully-stocked bar), Fellers also suggests La Rosita.

La Rosita
1 1/2 ounces reposado tequila
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura or other aromatic bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing vessel. Add ice and stir for about 30 seconds. Strain over ice and garnish with an expressed orange twist.

Wes Burdette of Spork in Garfield gives two simple takes on this bitter aperitif, the first a Campari and soda: one-and-a-half ounces of Campari and three ounces of soda built over rocks. For rye and whiskey lovers, Burdette recommends the Copain Special, a classic recipe from Copain Restaurant in New York City.

Copain Special
1/2 ounce Campari
1 1/2 ounces straight rye or Canadian whiskey
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Frozen Fruit
An easy way to elevate any drink is by adding flavored syrup. Turn your freezer fruit into simple syrup by using Fellers’ basic ratio of one cup sugar to one cup water to one-and-a-half cups frozen fruit. Bring the ingredients to a boil, then simmer until the fruit is soft, and strain. Fellers uses this method in her variation of a Tom Collins.

Blueberry Tom Collins
2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce blueberry simple syrup
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake and then strain into a Collins-style glass. Top with sparkling water. more ice, and garnish with blueberries and/or a lemon wheel.

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