Monday, August 10, 2009
I Never Go To Bars
I realized at some point over the last couple years of boozeblogging that there is a key difference between myself and the majority of my fellow drink geeks: I almost never find myself in bars.
It's not that I actively avoid bars...it's just that I never seem to patronize them with any real frequency. Odd, considering I adore bars. I think they're absolutely fascinating places. I love dives and swanky joints alike, and I've had wonderful, memorable times in almost every watering hole I've stepped into. Yet I do 99% of my drinking at home.*
This puts me in direct contrast with most of the other bloggers, bartenders, and assorted booze nerds I know who chronicle their public drinking escapades online. These people do some serious traveling, and not only do they hit up seemingly every bar in within reach, they can pretty much find hooch everywhere. On any given day of browsing blogs, social networking sites and emails, I encounter a flurry of miniature liquor-centric travelogues such as:
"The Moroccan Mixologists' Guild is sponsoring a VIP event...I'm sitting on a camel and sampling concoctions from 478 of the finest bartenders in North Africa!"
"Having drinks in New York's hottest new cocktail spot. To get in, you have to use a jetpack to fly to the roof, then rappel down 18 floors and climb through an air-conditioning vent. Totally worth it- best Negroni EVER!"
"I'm crouched in an igloo drinking Inuit moonshine!"
"Finished judging the Pan-Asian Craft Cocktail Showdown in Hong Kong. Jackie Chan just invited me to the rollout party for his new vodka!
"Got off the plane in Madagascar, and I'm being whisked to the island's only rum distillery for a VIP tour by the owner's daughter. She's been pouring me samples the whole time in the back of the limo. Did I mention she's a lingerie model? "
"Who knew a commercial whaling vessel would have a fully-stocked absinthe bar??"
And so on. Now, if I documented my drinking this way, it would essentially be endless variations of:
"Went to the basement and rummaged through the liquor shelf. Made a weird drink I found in some old bar guide and then watched 'Intervention.' Maybe I can draw a dopey cartoon about it later."
However, despite the fact that I rarely travel past the end of my driveway,** I've recently made several trips to what I'm confident is Pittsburgh's only craft cocktail bar: Embury.
I should point out that in addition to not doing product reviews here (much to the chagrin of the many brand reps who kindly send me samples, I'm sure), I don't review bars. I don't see myself as a critic, and I try to avoid going into that territory as much as possible. That being said, I do need to say just a few words about Embury :
If you're in the greater Pittsburgh area and enjoy well-crafted cocktails, you need to go there now. Embury is the domain of Fred Sarkis, a phenomenally skilled & talented bartender who is using the cozy ground floor of the popular Firehouse lounge to bring pre-prohibition bartending to the 'Burgh.
Fred's been doling out the hospitality at Embury since March, and he continues to do so with a high degree of enthusiasm and class five nights a week . As I said, I won't attempt to do the place justice with a ham-fisted review. I'll just say that if premium spirits, fresh juices and homemade bitters & syrups are what you like in your drink, go there. If uncompromising attention to detail and technique in cocktail creation is your thing, go there. If original recipes that can stand alongside the classics sound appealing, go there.
To see a proper review and a photo of this fine gentleman in action (with FIRE!), go here and here.
I should also mention that Fred and the good folks at the Firehouse/Embury recently hosted a live Thursday Drink Night event and good-naturedly let a flock of booze nerds slap their laptops and webcam on the bar, much to the curiosity of the other patrons. Fred gallantly endured us barking pisco-themed recipes at him all night long while the management tried to avoid a wi-fi meltdown from the sheer volume of geekery. Many thanks, gang!
And because it bears repeating...
* there are number of reasons for this, among them being that I'm a cheap bastard (according to the Bamboo Babe)
**A notable exception is that big yearly event in New Orleans that all the booze nerds go to. If you're reading this, there's a halfway decent chance you go there too.