See the video of Chris Cardone, the U.S. Bartending Guild’s Bartender of the Year, in this exclusive Breelicious Bites/New Pittsburgh Courier video from the Pittsburgh event!
I had the honor of being one of three esteemed judges of the first, and hopefully annual Cultured Cocktails event, held at the Benedum Center on Saturday, April 28.
The brainchild of Ronda Zegarelli, of Acrobatique, Greta Harper, General Manager of Pirata and Jacob Korb, of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the successful event brought over 800 cocktail connoisseurs and social sippers alike, for an unforgettable night of Broadway musical-themed cocktails.
Upon entering, guests were given cocktail passports, which listed all the restaurants and cocktails. The goal of course, was to visit each and get it stamped.
The first station was Chris Cardone’s. You could catch him twirling bottles, pouring drinks and talking with patrons. He had two flair performances, and in between everything he still managed to get around to all the stations to fulfill his judging duties! Chris hails from New York and in 2017 was crowned USBGWorld Class Bartender. Right behind his station was one of Pittsburgh’s most known DJ’s, DJ Selecta. He had the crowd jammin’ all night while playing everything from Prince to Stevie Wonder to California rapper Anderson .Paak.
All four floors of the Benedum were filled with cocktails. I started on the Mezzanine level with Talia Cucina, had a delicious cocktail and the food pairing was perfect; one of the best of the evening, in my opinion. The cocktail was inspired by “Rent” and was titled “525,600,” the popular song from the 1996 musical, or the number of cocktails I had that evening…
It was made with Montenegro Amaro, grapefruit moonshine, bourbon, simple syrup and blood orange juice. The accompaniment was a beautiful skewer with cured honey & hibiscus carrots, grapefruit and blood orange citrus. The two married so well together. Scratch Food & Beverage also impressed me with their innovate “Mixed Nut Bar” cocktail inspired by one of my favorite plays, “The Bodyguard,” and featured gin, tomatillo, lime, mint, cilantro and granny smith apple.
As I walked downstairs, I heard an angelic, but powerful voice coming from the VIP Lounge. I knew it had to be the powerhouse singer Lyndsey Smith and her dynamic Soul Distribution band. I sat and listened for a while and indulged in some of the delicious desserts in the lounge. After relaxing for a bit, I continued my mixed-drink migration.
The Promenade was the busiest and had the most restaurants. The lines were long, but so worth the wait. Some of the fan favorites were Pirata’s Miami Mai Tai, which was inspired by Gloria Estafan’s Miami Sound Machine; Bakersfield’s Strawberry Dream, inspired by “Waitress;” a spicy “Aladdin” themed cocktail containing honey habanero moonshine and Death’s Door Gin- Jinn Gin Genie, by The Warren (which landed them as People’s Choice Winner), and Eddie Merlot’s “Wicked” Elphaba’s Old Port Fun, which features Old Port Rum, Hypnotiq, Vanilla Extract and Brown Sugar Cubes. That truly won the judges over and made them the grand prize winner.
The Grand Lobby and Lower Gallery also had tasty libations. Braddock’s “Hamilton” drink was simply delicious; a mix of Four Roses bourbon, freshly squeezed lime juice and grenadine. They were one vote shy of winning People’s Choice! The salt cured salmon stood out from Maggie’s Farmtable as well as Tequila Cowboy’s chicharrones with pineapple habanero salsa, those were two of my favorite bites of the evening. I know I was supposed to only judge the cocktails, but what can I say…I’m a foodie!
This event was a great way to showcase Pittsburgh’s great restaurants, delicious cocktails, dynamic bartenders and The Cultural Trust’s amazing lineup! I am looking forward to next year’s event.