Bottled cocktails at the Independent Brewing Company

Eat/Drink is NEXTpittsburgh’s weekly roundup of what’s crazy good from Pittsburgh’s food scene.

Warhol will open new café this weekend
As a part of its 20th birthday celebration, the Andy Warhol Museum will open its new café space this Sunday, May 18.

The café has moved upstairs from its old basement location and is now integrated with the museum’s completely overhauled lobby space, which is designed to mimic Warhol’s own studio space, The Factory.

“With this new lobby, we’re able to do a lot more with special events and rentals, and having the café on the same level makes it easier,” says the museum’s Rachel Baron-Horn.

Parkhurst, the catering arm of the Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, will handle the café’s food.

Gastropub coming to Shadyside
The Yard, a new gastropub from former finance professional and Duquesne alumnus David Ondik, will open at 736 Bellefonte Street later this month.

The 100-seat restaurant will be Ondik’s second in the area. He previously opened Coach’s Bottleshop & Grille on Banksville Road in Dormont.

The Yard will offer high-end pub food matched by an extensive selection of local beers and wines.

Lawyer by day, bartender by night
There are a lot of people slinging great craft cocktails in Pittsburgh bars these days, but none of them are doing it quite like Adam Henry at the Independent Brewing Company.

While the Independent focuses heavily on local craft beers, Henry — who started as a home-cocktail enthusiast and like Independent owners Matt and Pete Kurzweg, spends his days practicing law — has put together a minimalist craft cocktail program which might be one of the city’s most innovative and enjoyable.

“There are a lot of things here born out of necessity,” Henry says. “This isn’t anyone’s first job. It’s an unusual way to run a bar.”

Because he can’t be there every day, the Independent leans heavily on its menu of craft beers from Tuesday through Friday, keeping a well-curated selection of local wines and spirits available by the glass. Henry’s everyday cocktail menu consists of five batched cocktails in two categories: bottled and barrel-aged.

The two bottled options are light and fruity with just a hint of added carbonation. The El Diablo, colored like a bright red punch, is a mix of Espolon tequila, black currant liqueur, lime shrub and Natrona ginger beer. The Roman Holiday, a rich orange concoction, combines Aperol, blood orange liqueur, lemon shrub and prosecco, and it’s easily one of Pittsburgh’s best new cocktails for summer.

The barrel-aged cocktails, Old Nassau and Rock & Rye and Mint Julep, sit clearly labeled in small wooden casks on the bar.

Henry’s advance preparations make it easy for bartenders to simply pour, garnish and serve during the week. But Saturdays are cocktail nights at the Independent, usually with a theme — molecular mixology, tiki, Kentucky Derby and the 1988 Tom Cruise film “Cocktail” have all been covered at the bar — and typically featuring six to eight of Henry’s original creations.

Those menus have included everything from the Gentleman’s Breakfast, a.k.a. The Rick Sebak (orange peel-infused Copper Fox rye, maple syrup and chocolate-mole bitters garnished with candied bacon), to the London Fog (a mix of port, cognac, cherry heering and bitters, topped with a fog Henry makes through pouring leather-and-pipe-tobacco-infused vodka over dry ice).

“Having cocktails made to order one night a week is highly unorthodox, but we’re pretty happy with this model,” Henry says. “One of the great things I have going here is the creative freedom that Pete and Matt give me,” he adds. “They only ever ask out of curiosity what I’m doing this week. They’ve given me carte blanche to do my thing.”

Starting this Saturday, Henry plans to replace the Old Nassau with a drink he’s calling the Santa Maria — new-world rum, Italian vermouth, Spanish sherry and chocolate-mole bitters. Henry says he thinks of it as kind of a “dessert Manhattan.” He’s also adding a third bottled cocktail, the Negroni Royale.

“Most of the cocktails I make are riffs on classic cocktails,” he says. “I think very few good drinks are created out of whole cloth,” he adds. “It’s naive to think you’re going to create drinks that are ahistorical.”

Matthew Wein

Matthew Wein is a local writer, editor, blogger, storyteller and proud native Pittsburgher. Once described as "a man of things," he covers city design, spirits and craft beer for NEXT, where he keeps all...