I've long been envious of Italy's café corretto, the tradition of "fixing" coffee with a shot of liquor. For those looking for extra zing in their mugs, Pittsburgh has kept its coffee and cocktails distressingly far apart. Thankfully, Sarah Walsh is working on it.
This self-proclaimed "cold-brew cocktail evangelist" — who owns the Caffé D'Amore coffee bars in Pittsburgh Public Market and Marty's Market — has a contagious passion for her craft. She speaks lovingly of extraction processes, types of beans and the quality of roasters. Coffee is "this act of hospitality that's been around for two thousand years," she says. "Because of the tools we have at our fingertips now, we can do different things than we've ever been able to do." With two coffee bars and a host of collaborative projects, it's unlikely that Walsh sleeps, a testament to her enthusiasm and the quality of her product.
Cold brew in hand, Walsh has been brainstorming with local bartenders and baristas "to figure out how to pair these things in ways that really respect both, where you're not sacrificing one or the other," she says. "If I didn't own a coffee company right now, I'd want to be a craft-cocktail bartender." Pittsburgh Coffee Week afforded her a chance to bring her ideas to life at Constellation Coffee, where she taught a class on coffee cocktailing using spirits from local distillers Boyd & Blair and Wigle Whiskey.
While her coffee bars lack liquor licenses, Walsh is eager to keep trading knowledge with Pittsburgh bartenders about liquor and coffee, and hopes to find a way to bring more coffee cocktails to the public. Her success organizing the ShrubDown, an all-in-good-fun competition where bartenders, tea purveyors, farmers and baristas face off with their best fruit, vinegar and seltzer concoctions, puts her on the map as a supporter of the bar community. Expect more from her, especially if you're willing to loan her some time at your bar.