Consider Bridges & Bourbon your belated Christmas present.
Originally slated to open last December, Penn Avenue’s new modernist cocktail spot has hacked through a mountain of red tape and will make its debut this week, bringing liquid works of art to the local bar scene. After an invite-only bash on Thursday night, Bridges & Bourbon officially opens Friday.
“When I finally took the paper off of the front window, there was a constant parade of people walking by with their mouths dropped,” says co-owner David Keating, a mixologist and certified sommelier. “It’s not a certain gender or race or age; it’s been pretty universally liked.”
The bar’s extensive drink menu includes 19 signature concoctions that are as much art as they are alcohol.
Sugar Snap, a combination of sugar snap pea syrup, green Chartreuse, St-Germain and tequila is a refreshing summer elixir served in a flute glass on a bed of greens and flowers. It’s shaken in a Perlini shaker, which carbonates the drink.
Visitors will find everything from dry ice to unique barware reminiscent of a mad scientist’s laboratory. Keating hired experienced bartenders who double as showmen: Derek Ott, Brendan Torpey and Akil Babb.
“You can go and get a drink with your friends anywhere,” says Babb. “This is something you experience with your friends. I’ve worked in a lot of craft cocktail bars and in fine dining. This is next-level for me. This is the level I’ve been striving to get to.”
Despite the extra pizzazz going into each glass, orders are served quickly and with a purpose.
“I don’t ask, ‘What are you drinking?’” Babb explains. “I ask, ‘How are you feeling?’’’
In addition to Instagram-worthy thirst quenchers, there are dozens of bourbons and whiskeys (flights are served on a miniature bridge made by Bones and All), as well as canned beers and cider from Hitchhiker, Eleventh Hour, East End and Arsenal Cider House and wine by the bottle or glass.
Chef David Racicot offers elevated bar fare with small plates including chips and dip served with avocado, whitefish roe, chilies and flowers. The truffle popcorn is topped with parsley and black truffle butter.
There also are more substantial offerings (Peeky Toe Crab is warmed in butter alongside peas and egg sauce) and desserts.
The interior design was crafted as thoughtfully as the menu: The former Seviche restaurant has been transformed into a posh yet inviting place with dark blue walls and brass accents, a 25-foot bar highlighted by mirrors and wood and seating for 70. (Total capacity is 105 and sidewalk dining will be available later this summer.)
But beyond beauty, the focus is on sustainability: Bridges & Bourbon has a Platinum designation from the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant program and partnered with ZeroFoodprint to battle climate change. A 25 cent per guest carbon credit fee is included on every bill, with the money then used to offset B&B’s carbon footprint.
The establishment runs on 98 percent renewable energy, uses locally sourced products when possible and has extensive recycling and food waste composting programs.
“If we’re going to be very innovative with the food and beverages,” Keating says, “we should do the same with the management of our restaurant.”