Local Bars Showcase Favorite Gadgets
Mastering the cocktail shaker is one thing, but any professional barkeep will tell you there’s a lot more that goes into mixing the best brews. Just one dash of bitters, use of a Microplane for zesting, or a slice of your favorite seasonal fruit can drastically alter a drink’s flavor notes. We looked to three master mixologists for the tips and tricks they go to while behind the bar. Because the right tools and products stand stiffly behind a great drink. Give these suggestions a read, stock your at-home bar, then practice — taste-testing is encouraged!
Cigar Bar Bartender of Cioppino
Marshall has tended bar for 18 years — four of the last at Cioppino — and can assemble a beverage to appease all palates.
Key to My Heart
One of Marshall’s bar essentials is a wine key. “Wine complements cigars.” The bottle shown here is the 2011 Cigar Zin, a rich, lush, well-structured wine that’s hearty with exotic fruit characteristics. The varietal boasts notes of deep black fruit, some spice, and a tinge of black pepper.
“Manhattans are very popular with cigar smokers. Sometimes I feel like I make 30 in one day.” Marshall mixes bitters with Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey for the perfect pour.
“My cigar cutter and my lighter are two things I use a million times a day.” There’s a method to making the classic cut and Marshall has it down. “In the Cigar Bar, we have the best clientele. It’s different than any other bar. Five guests who don’t know one another are friends by the end of the night.” That’s Pittsburgh!
Cioppino, 2350 Railroad St., Strip District. 412.281.6593. cioppinoofpittsburgh.com.
Bar Manager of Kaya
Given her experience and zeal, Clark is as well-rounded as the cocktails she creates.
Bottle It Up
“These are my things. I love having a spray bottle behind the bar. It’s super helpful. With all of our martinis, comes a spritz in the glass. It’s a way to incorporate a really nice, flavorful bitter without the potency. You get more of the aromatics than anything. In our bourbon cocktails, we spray the glass with 16-year Lagavulin Scotch, which has big peat and lots of smoke.” Here, you see lemon bitters, and Wigle Whiskey’s organic lavender and rosemary bitters.
“The white European style peeler is a chef’s tool. That is how you get beautiful wide twists from your fruit. I use it for oranges. The other is a super cool, new toy I got from Microplane. I’m jazzed about it! It’s a three-in-one tool with a bottle opener, a fine zester, and a super sharp twisting tool. It literally cuts through the rind of a lime like a hot knife through butter.”
“This badass muddler has teeth on the bottom. It helps when making tiki drinks or an Old Fashioned because it grinds up wedges of fruit. This swizzle spoon is designed to stir rapidly by just spinning the ice in the glass, not moving the ice, so you’re not watering down the drink, you’re just chilling.”
“The measuring jigger starts at ¼ of an ounce and measures up to 2 ounces. If you mess up measuring, it can throw off the balance of the cocktail. Some cocktails are forgiving, others are not.”
“Fever-Tree tonic water is a great tool. It’s a really good tonic water and not that Schweppes nonsense. It’s one of my super sneaky tricks.”
Kaya, 2000 Smallman St., Strip District. 412.261.6565. bigburrito.com/kaya.
Bar Manager of Perlé
Welsh assisted in the opening of Perlé and hasn’t looked back. The opportunist returned to the high-volume nightlife scene to construct craft cocktails with a Champagne spin, unique to the Pittsburgh bar scene.
Pop, Fizz, Clink!
“We use a wine sealer to keep our Champagne fresh, especially because we do about 13 to 14 bottles by the glass. It puts CO2 back into the bottle. They’re able to hold a lot longer than they would without.”
“A lot of our cocktails on our specialty Champagne list have a lot of fresh juices in them. We constantly use a juicer to make those drinks.”
“We have a lot of requests for Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, and when it comes to whiskey, I prefer not shaking it, but stirring it.”
“We use the filter hand-in-hand with the juicer to remove some of the larger particles, like lemon and lime seeds. In conjunction, we use the peel for zesting.”
“The jigger is really a basic tool, but I’m really big into using them. I believe in getting the recipes down. If you have something a little off, it’s going to throw the entire drink off. Whenever I am making a cocktail, I like to use the jigger every time.”
“Since we do a lot of whiskey-based cocktails, we use a lot of bitters. We also make some in-house — this winter, we did a cranberry-orange-cinnamon bitters. The Fee Brothers’ bitters provide a really large range.”
Pictured here are Black Walnut Bitters and Aztec Chocolate Bitters.
Perlé, 25 Market Square, Downtown. 412.471.2058. perlepgh.com.
Plus! Spring for these cocktails, new at two of our favorite bars this season.
Basil Rhubarb Bourbon Flip
Salt of the Earth bartender Jeremy Bustamante uses basil simple syrup, juiced rhubarb, egg white, a few dashes of Angostura bitters, and Heaven Hill “Bottled in Bond” bourbon for an all-around fresh libation.
“It’s spring in a glass,” says Bustamante. He blends Boyd & Blair’s new product, Hum, a botanical spirit with hibiscus, cardamom, Kaffir lime, sugarcane, and ginger, with Wigle Whiskey’s organic lavender and rosemary bitters, mezcal, and rosé for a “very herbal, very floral, fuchsia” cocktail.
Ginger Lime Gimlet
Using Boyd & Blair vodka, infused with fresh ginger, Lidia’s Italy Pittsburgh General Manager Adam Greiner adds in housemade lime-cello and simple syrup for a special tang. The refreshing libation is garnished with a sprig of smoked rosemary for a hint of savory.
At Lidia’s, Greiner is putting a spin on the Sour. He uses barrel-aged Wigle Whiskey gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and La Mozza Morellino di Scansano red wine, floated off of a bar spoon for a ring of red perfection.
Lidia’s Italy Pittsburgh, 1400 Smallman St., Strip District. 412.552.0150. lidias-pittsburgh.com.
Salt of the Earth, 5523 Penn Ave., Garfield. 412.441.7258. saltpgh.com.