Last Updated on November 1, 2021 by Jeremy
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I know what you're thinking- another bar in Lawrenceville?!
For the longest time, we thought this neighborhood was already at its max of bars. But it wasn't until we were able to get in and experience Bar Botanico that we realized Lawrenceville was missing one specific kind of bar that we thoroughly enjoy- a higher-end cocktail bar. And if there is anything you know about us, we love good cocktail bars in Pittsburgh.
From the drinks to the vibe and the food (presently provided by Troy Hill-based Scratch & Co), Bar Botanico really knocked things out of the park- not just on drinks, but the entire package.
Bar Botanico Offers Stellar Cocktails in Lawrenceville
At first glance at the cocktail menu at Bar Botanico, we were impressed by two things. First, the cocktails run the spectrum in styles with some house creations as well as unique takes on classics. Second, apart from the Bartender's Choice option, every cocktail we saw on the main feature clocked in at $12 in our late 2021 visit- about average for the city and without any surge pricing you may expect for a neighborhood that is quickly becoming more and more expensive with each passing year.
During our visit, we ended up trying four cocktails- The Dainty Dame, the Pisco Milk Punch, a Negroni Week special Pamplemousse Rose Sbagliato, and a Bartender's Choice. In a prior visit for takeout during the shutdown, we also were able to try the Cool Hand Cuke as well which was an intensely cucumbery gem with a tish of mint that we'll drink every single summer if we can find it on the menu.
The Dainty Dame was a spiked Cava cocktail with Cocchi Rosa, Carpano Bianco, Vanilla, and Lemon and dressed with some dried flowers for presentation. The spirits added a nice herbal element (and fortification) whereas the vanilla and lemon helped bring it all together. In fact, we probably could drink that one straight sans-Cava as a fortified cocktail and see it working out as well. If you are an aromatic or sparkling wine drinker, this is a jazzed-up glass of wine in every respect.
The Pisco Milk Punch was perhaps the most out-there cocktail of the evening as it was a mix of Pisco, Arrack, Nonino, Angostura amaro, Thai tea, ginger, and lemon served on the rocks and crystal clear. It took me the entirety of the drink to even form a base opinion on it as it was complex thanks to the Thai tea and ginger, but aromatic due to the amari, and fortified from the spirits. Individual flavor notes for the Pisco and Arrack may have been lost in the shuffle a bit, but I walked away wishing the drink was double the size simply because I was still trying to place all the flavors going on in this glass as it certainly wasn't wanting for more.
The Negroni Week special had a very Aperol Spritz vibe to it as the base spirits were Campari and Carpano Bianco with a Pamplemousse rose liqueur, rose water, and Prosecco added in. All the flavors of a classic Spritz were there, with a light grapefruit and rose twist that also elevated the sweetness level just a bit.
Perhaps the most enjoyable drink of the night was our Bartender's Choice selection. Here, you tell your server a bit about what you like and the bartender will create a drink just for you. I said I liked fortified cocktails and went with something smokey that wasn't too bitter and ended up with a cocktail containing two kinds of scotch, Averna, and Lapsang tea syrup. I didn't catch the brands of the Scotch used, but I appreciated that the drink wasn't too peaty and was balanced perfectly with the flavorful syrup. Sweet and smokey was indeed what I was going for!
Go to Bar Botanico Hungry as Well
We originally were going to visit Bar Botanico simply for cocktails, but when we realized that Scratch & Co was providing the menu and it looked inline with what they sell at their own restaurant, we knew we had to make a meal out of things.
The menu here appears to be highly seasonal and prone to change at a moment's notice (something we always appreciate). Even in the week or so after we visited the menu was completely overhauled from bright summer dishes to robust and hearty fall classics (with an Eastern European vibe to match). So while it looks like our own dishes are no longer on the menu, we're going to talk about them anyway- a trio of dishes including cauliflower wings, a veggie burger, and the house take on the classic Vietnamese banh mi.
The cauliflower wings came out as a modest appetizer portion that was easy to share for two or could've been a decent entree for one. We didn't quite know what to expect these to be, but they were fried with a thick and crunchy batter on the exterior that complimented the smooth texture of the vegetable on the inside. The bites were tossed in a honey buffalo sauce (sweet and spicy) with a side of ranch and may make us converts on the concept of vegetarian wings- a tall order that they nailed.
The veggie burger was a mix of sweet potato, black bean, yellow eyed peas, and lentils and topped with pickled onions on a kaizer roll with roasted garlic aioli and fermented root vegetable ketchup. Our biggest fears with veggie burgers is that they would end up dried out, and while this one was not much to look at, it was moist and flavorful with a nice tanginess from the pickled onions and ketchup.
The banh mi was also a nice take on the classic dish with porchetta, pickled carrot, daikon, cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro on a hoagie roll. It was perhaps not the biggest banh mi we've had in the city, but it was loaded up with enough porchetta to cover a much larger sandwich outright. We paired this one with an order of the house fries which were thick cut and had a nice crunch on the outside and went nicely with the same fermented root vegetable ketchup from the burger above.
On the food end, you probably won't want to expect massive dishes at Bar Botanico, but they are of sufficient enough size to make a meal and, in some cases, share with a second person at the table. Our kind of bar food all around- so go hungry!
Overall, Bar Botanico convinced us that Lawrenceville indeed needed yet another bar. From the flavor of the drinks, execution of the dishes, to the vibe in the space at large, it truly fills a void we didn't even know the neighborhood needed.
Bar Botanico is located at 4325 Butler Street right in the heart of Lawrenceville.