Finding your next favorite cocktail can sometimes feel a bit like rolling the dice. At East Liberty’s new Commerce Bar, that’s actually what happens.
This speakeasy-style lounge offers a Roller’s Choice cocktail: Simply toss the dice and let fate decide the ingredients that go into your glass. Each concoction is a winner with veteran mixologists Cecil Usher and Cat Cannon behind the bar.
Commerce Bar is owned by Adam Kucenic and Diana Strekalovskaya, the husband-and-wife team behind a trio of restaurants occupying the same block of S. Highland Avenue: Muddy Waters Oyster Bar, Kahuna Poke and Juice Bar and Bird on the Run.
The entrance to the new spot, located in an alley (Commerce Street) behind Bird on the Run, is simply a black door illuminated by a spotlight. There’s no secret password; knock and someone will let you into the cool but tiny space.
What was once used as a storage facility now looks like something out of the Roaring Twenties. A large chandelier adds a romantic ambiance to the small, dark space, which can accommodate up to 35 people at a time.
Guests are seated on a first come, first served basis. If the bar is full when you arrive, you can leave your name and number on the guest list and a staff member will alert you via text when a spot opens up.
Commerce Bar is open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 6 p.m. to midnight on Sundays.
Usher and Cannon, who recently launched Mindful Hospitality Group, were brought in as consultants on the project. They did a lot of research on Pittsburgh’s drinking history and perused vintage cocktail recipe books to come up with a menu that pays homage to the past with a few modern twists.
The Fort Duquesne Old Fashioned is a popular choice, as is Commerce Bar’s take on a dirty martini. The martini is made with pickle-and-olive-infused gin, oyster shell-infused vermouth, olive brine and saline solution. The liquid is put in the freezer, so it comes out ice cold. It’s also got a sustainable twist, since most of the ingredients are sourced from within the local restaurant group.
Commerce Bar utilizes Bird on the Run’s kitchen and offers a small menu of late-night bites.
The place has catered to a diverse clientele since opening in late November, ranging from couples on a first date and Steelers fans looking for a post-game beverage to casual Friday folks and people dressed to impress.
“It’s a place for people to get together and talk,” Cannon says. “People are staying to bask in the atmosphere.”