Superior Motors revs up a superior drinks program | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Superior Motors revs up a superior drinks program

"We try to use a lot of fresh herbs, and try to keep sugar levels low."

On the bar at Superior Motors
On the bar at Superior Motors

If you know only one thing about Superior Motors, you know this: It’s been a long time coming. Thanks to a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign, the ambitious Braddock restaurant had more than a few folks watching its progress. For the better part of three years, there wasn’t much to watch. But despite construction delays and tight budgets, chef Kevin Sousa and his team finally opened Superior Motors in mid-July. What’s left to do but have a drink?

Beverage director Jeremy Bustamante is happy to provide one. Bustamante’s relationship with Sousa goes back to Salt of the Earth, where he ran the bar for several years. When the job with Superior Motors came his way, Bustamante says it was a no-brainer. Fans of Salt will recognize a familiar format in Superior Motors’ cocktail program, which consists of a clean list of 10 drinks named after their base spirits. “It’s a very seasonal menu,” explains Bustamante. “We try to use a lot of fresh herbs, and try to keep sugar levels low.”

Perhaps no drink on the opening menu embodies this approach more than the one called “Vodka.” The seasonal cocktail contains just three ingredients: vodka, mulberries and lemon. There is no sugar aside from the slight sweetness of the mulberries. The vodka is local (Boyd & Blair), and the mulberries are hyper-local: Bustamante and general manager Chris Clark harvested the fruit from a tree in Superior Motors’ parking lot.  (The mulberries have since been switched out for tomatoes.) Like Sousa’s food, the drinks will feature foraged ingredients and local produce, including herbs grown right down the street at Braddock Farms.

The 50-bottle wine list, curated by Clark (formerly of wd~50 in New York), is split evenly between Old World and New World selections. In keeping with the restaurant’s focus on education (it is developing a youth training program), Clark offers something called a “dual strand,” which allows guests to sample a rotating pairing of New World and Old World wines. Reflecting a nationwide obsession with pink wine, rosé comprises nearly a third of the list, and seven rosés are available by the glass. Clark has also assembled an impressive sake selection, which pairs nicely with Sousa’s Asian-tinged cuisine.

As for beer, the bar boasts six drafts and a small selection of bottles and cans. Not surprisingly, one tap pours Brew Gentlemen beer, which is made just blocks from the restaurant. The other taps are all Pennsylvania beers, and Bustamante hopes to eventually make the entire draft list local.

Like the food, the drinks at Superior Motors will change with the seasons and the whims of Bustamante and his team. But regardless of the specific selection the night you stop in, the energy and excitement of the long-awaited venture will be palpable. “How happy am I to be working with Kevin Sousa again?” says Bustamante, beaming. “I can’t even describe it.”