Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on July 19, 2021.
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Bridges & Bourbon opened in Pittsburgh's Cultural District in June 2019 and was a much-awaited cocktail bar due to their strong lead-up on social media.
The bar focuses on high-end cocktails with some rather interesting flair and novelties thrown into the mix as well, making it rather unique in Pittsburgh's cocktail bar scene!
We were guests of Bridges & Bourbon for a media preview event and wanted to share some of the great cocktails we tried in this one!
Bridges & Bourbon Offers a High-End Cocktail Experience
We're often hesitant on calling a cocktail bar an experience, because that often implies there is more than simply enjoying a well-made libation. But at Bridges & Bourbon, you'll get just that.
The reason for this is because many of the cocktails are designed to have a subtle secondary feature you don't get elsewhere. Some cocktails have hardwood smoked on a plate right next to you. Others have dry ice side-pieces offering an olfactory element. A few are designed for a key ingredient (or three) to melt over time to change the flavors of your drink. One even has Cointreau cotton candy on top!
This is a kind of cocktail experience that Pittsburgh has not come to have just yet (until now at least), and to us, that makes Bridges & Bourbon unique.
During our visit, we sampled many of the cocktails from both the light-spirited and the dark-spirited menus.
On the light-spirited side, we started off with the Seger- a Quantum cucumber gin with Gewurztraminer, lemon, hibiscus, cardamom, and ginger. Most of the ingredients were interesting in this one as they were encapsulated as ice cubes floating in the wine, so the flavor profile of the drink changed as you let it sit over time. At the start, it was wine and toward the end opened up with a really wonderful cucumber, gin, and hibiscus flavor. Patience is a virtue with this one!
A second light cocktail we sampled was the Sake Sour- a sake and vodka-based cocktail with wasabi sugar and freeze-dried edamame on the rim. In this one, I would say that the wasabi sugar probably needed a bit more time to soak up the oils for a punch, but the edamame offered a wonderful flavor when sipping the cocktail. The drink was paired with a sensory experience of a soy sauce fog that was created with dry ice put into a soy sauce container. Definitely a nice scent to have on the side without any flavor in the drink.
On the dark spirited front, we were able to go with the Appalachian Trail (perhaps our favorite cocktail of the bunch)- a Wigle rye spirit made with blackberry syrup made in a sous vide, smoked black tea, mezcal, lime, basil, and a side of cherrywood smoked on the slate tray as you drank. This one was quite strong in blackberry flavor, but the tea, mezcal, and olfactory smoke all added additional smokey cues like you would experience when camping that brought this drink together.
The second dark spirit we sampled was the Franch (seemingly not a typo)- made with Wigle Landlocked spiced, an egg white, and a Beaujolais and chocolate bitters spray on top. The wine and chocolate addition added a wonderful color as well as a fair hint of sweetness that complimented the Landlocked well (and was one of the more affordable cocktails on the menu).
Out of all of the cocktails, the only proper letdown was the Nimbus- a sochu cocktail with kefir, mandarin, verjus blanc, lime, grapefruit, and local honey. I say this one was a letdown if only because the kefir flavor overpowered the drink, and the designed melt of the mandarin slush was a lot slower than in the Seger mentioned above. But once it did, the flavors blended wonderfully- we were simply out of the base at that point as we were not as patient for this one.
A Modest Food Menu As Well
In addition to cocktails, Bridges & Bourbon has a modest food menu as well that includes a mix of small plates and larger entrees. During our first visit, we sampled two small plates as we were primarily visiting for the cocktails.
Many of the small plates were transformative in order to look like one thing but be something else entirely. For example, the chips and dip came out as one monster sheet of chips, made entirely of rice, but looked almost like a chicharron. The shrimp tempura, as another example, came out as tempura sticks that caught me off guard so much I had to be reminded of what they were again (one bite and I realized it was the shrimp).
Several of the other dishes at Bridges & Bourbon do this as well, and we're looking forward to tasting a few more in a future visit to get a better picture of the food side of the menu!
A Note About the Price at Bridges & Bourbon
Now, we would be remiss if we did not mention that this is indeed a high-end cocktail bar. Of the sixteen cocktails on the menu at the opening, about half hovered around $14-$15 price points (which is generally our threshold of tolerance for premium cocktails). A few were north of $18-$20, but we also appreciated that the menu had a few options in the more conventional $10-$12 range.
In most cases, we would have a bit of criticism for cocktails that are above that $14 price; however, the drinks at Bridges & Bourbon are done exceptionally well such that this one is worth the added premium.
We get that not everyone will be for $15 or $18 cocktails in this city, but those who are, well, Bridges & Bourbon is the place for that as other nearby bars simply fall flat when attempting drinks in this pricing tier.
Overall, Bridges & Bourbon is a welcomed addition to Pittsburgh's bar scene. The cocktails here are high-end, yes, but for those who are like us and appreciate novel creations, it is truly a place to check out- higher price point and all. We look forward to returning to this one very, very soon!
Bridges & Bourbon is located at 930 Penn Avenue in the Cultural District. We were guests of Bridges & Bourbon at their opening for this review. As always, all opinions are our own.
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