Last Updated on May 13, 2022 by Jeremy
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Almost everyone is down for a good cocktail, and we are spoiled with a number of truly awesome cocktail bars in Pittsburgh that specialize in these creative beverages.
We've been exploring many of the best cocktail bars in recent years, and today we want to share a list of some of the best. So if fortified libations are in your future, check out one of the following!
As per all of our guides, the following is a list of cocktail bars we've personally visited. As we find more, we'll update this guide accordingly!
What Makes a Cocktail Bar in Pittsburgh?
On the surface, what makes a cocktail bar sounds pretty obvious- it is a bar with a strong cocktail menu. But, as is the case with most guides like this on our site, we have to make a distinction as to what that means for us in selecting spots to feature.
Our Pittsburgh wine bar guide doesn't highlight all of the Pittsburgh area wineries (even if they all, technically, have a bar), and in a similar vein, this cocktail bar guide will not feature restaurants that have a stellar cocktail program.
What we think of when hearing the term cocktail bar is a place you can walk into, get a seat at the bar (okay, sometimes standing room only works too), and be served drinks immediately. Some of these places may have a limited food menu. A few even have rather robust food menus. But the point of this one is that you can show up to most of the following bars without an advanced reservation and grab a cocktail with ease.
As such, places like Kaya, Bar Marco, Butcher and the Rye, Acorn, and many, many other restaurants that deserve praise for their cocktail program are not being featured below (although we do feature many of these in our Pittsburgh happy hour guide for cocktails if they have a great deal).
So, which cocktail bars should you hit up on your next night out? Our always-growing guide features all of the spots we've personally visited!
If you are going out with friends and no one can agree what they want (but you, personally, want good cocktails), a visit to Brillobox is a must.
I say this because this particular bar excels in all libations (beer, wine, and cocktails), so even the pickiest of friends will likely be able to find something they like here. Throw in a great ambiance, a modestly sized food menu, and good prices and you have the makings of a great all-around bar!
Brillobox is located at 4104 Penn Avenue in Bloomfield. Brillobox closed in late 2020 but re-opened in March 2022. The above write-up was from our visit prior to the closure and we will update this when we return shortly.
We often call Tina's style as modern retro, which has a ton of nostalgia in the ambiance, classic drinks, novel creations as well. The cocktails all come in at reasonable prices, which are great for several rounds, but sometimes do not come in with flavor profiles beyond the conventional- more or less on par with our own home bartending.
On the plus side? The price at this one is hard to beat!
Tina's is located at 4114 Main Street in Bloomfield.
The Speakeasy is the Omni William Penn Hotel's take on a high-end speakeasy. There is minimal signage, often a bouncer at the door, and once you get in the bar looks like a high-end lounge from the 1920s (great for those who want an ambiance when they drink).
This particular bar focuses on some high-end creations in traditional formats of highballs, gimlets, Old Fashioneds, and more. Just be careful, as some of the prices here can be quite steep- such as the Aviation and Classic Sazerac which both run north of $15.
The Speakeasy is located at the Omni William Penn Hotel at 530 William Penn Place.
Emerson's Bar opened in early 2020 above Market Street Grocery in downtown Pittsburgh and is a cozy bar space that offers a modest cocktail menu. The drinks here are mostly house takes on classics like the Manhattan, Sidecar, Mezcal Smash, and the like over being a more customized cocktail menu.
The space is the real winner of this one as it is quite large as far as bars are concerned and offers a wall of windows with a partial view of Market Square and several gorgeous downtown Pittsburgh buildings. The seating choices here are great for those who want to settle in for a good conversation with friends with a drink in hand over being a destination for the cocktails on their own right.
Emerson's Bar is located at 435 Market St. Floor 2, right above Market Street Grocery (separate entrance).
Kingfly Spirit is a distillery that opened in the Strip District in early 2019. The cocktail program here uses many of the distillery's own spirits and rounds out their creations with other Pennsylvania distilleries.
Many of the menu items here revolve around the classics like build-your-own Collins or Rickey, Old Fashioned, Bloody Mary, Painkiller, and more with only a few novel creations standing out. Still, this brewery has a beautiful space and coupled with Thursday night jazz makes for a great outing!
Kingfly Spirits is located at 2613 Smallman Street in the Strip District.
Leo. A Public House
Leo is a cocktail bar tucked away in Pittsburgh's North Side (Manchester neighborhood). This bar has a wide array of cocktails from the conventional to using unique creations from the house-made vodka infusions. Many of the cocktails here err on the sweet side, although you may find something completely off-the-wall like ramp vinegar and vodka that throws you for a tart kick.
The best part about Leo is that almost all of the cocktails are quite cheap ($10 or less at the time of publishing), making this one of the most cost-effective cocktail bars in the city.
Leo. A Public House is located at 1207 Allegheny Avenue in the North Side.
Ollie's Gastropub is located at the Embassy Suites in downtown Pittsburgh. This may sound a bit conventional for those who don't know better, but Ollie's Gastropub is located on the top floor at the hotel, giving some stellar views from the nearby windows (a few even look onto the home plate of PNC Park)!
Throw in perfectly executed cocktails, and you have a rather unique cocktail bar that most people pass up when visiting downtown.
Ollie's Gastropub is located in the Embassy Suites Downtown at 535 Smithfield Street.
St. Clair Social
If you are in the mood for a welcoming neighborhood bar in East Liberty, St. Clair Social has you covered.
This bar serves up an array of drinks without pretense and includes an interesting cocktail menu with house twists on historic cocktails created from the mid-1800s to early 2000s. As such, you never know what you're going to find be it a play on the Bahama Mama, Old Fashioned, Pornstar Martini, and more!
Whatever you do here, be sure to add some food as this one is as much gastropub as it is cocktail bar! (If they have the PB&J, pork belly & jam, don't miss that one in the slightest.)
St. Clair Social is located at 302 S St. Clair Street in East Liberty.
It is really hard to say no to Pittsburgh's first distillery, and with several locations in and around the city, it is easy to grab a cocktail from Wigle Whiskey whenever you want.
There is the distillery in the Strip District, the barrel house in the North Side (a personal favorite on nice summer days), the cocktail bar at the Omni William Penn Hotel (with great make-your-own Old Fashioneds), and even a tasting rooms at Ross Park Mall and the Pittsburgh airport!
While we are partial to anything with this distillery's gin, Wigle has a rather robust release schedule for their spirits so we always try and go for something featuring what is new or seasonal. You can't lose with that tasting process!
Wigle's Strip District location is at 2401 Smallman Street and the Barrel House is at 1055 Spring Garden Avenue in the North Side.
The Summit is the kind of cocktail bar we wish every neighborhood had. Its located right in the heart of the shopping district (on Shiloh Street in Mt Washington), the menu contains an array of delicious cocktail creations and offers a modest food menu as well.
The best part? After you get done with your drinks you're just steps away from Grandview Avenue where you can soak in the beautiful Pittsburgh skyline!
The Summit is located at 200 Shiloh Street in Mount Washington- just steps from the Monongahela Incline.
As far as cocktails in downtown Pittsburgh are concerned, it is hard to beat The Warren. This bar in the Cultural District focuses on novel craft cocktails all with an attractive price point compared to other bars nearby.
Even better? The Warren solves one of the biggest problems of drinking downtown, and maintains late night hours every night of the week! So gone are the days where you couldn't get a craft cocktail past 9 or 10pm, because The Warren's hours blows this timeslot out of the water.
The Warren is located at 245 7th Avenue in the Cultural District in downtown Pittsburgh.
The owners of Quantum Spirits proudly live up the Team Nerd reputation they put on at their distillery in Carnegie (from the design to the cocktail names), and, naturally, we are big fans.
The distillery here focuses on making some of the finest spirits in the region, with creations like rye vodka, gin, citrus vodka, and rye whiskey gracing the menu (and more being released all the time). As we believe that a quality cocktail must start with quality products, it should be no surprise that this one really knocks it out of the park.
So hope on 279 and take the quick trip to Carnegie for these creations- you won't regret it!
Quantum Spirits is located at 230 E Main Street in Carnegie, PA.
Liberty Pole Spirits
Liberty Pole Spirits is another distillery making waves in the local spirits scene, with local grains and theming at their distillery in Washington, PA- near the heart of the famed Whiskey Rebellion. As such, we highly recommend booking a tour at this one to get the full experience (not to mention, a welcome cocktail and a full tasting).
The distillery offers a number of unique whiskeys on the menu, including our personal favorite the peated bourbon. When used in a cocktail, this one blows more or less anything out of the water with its depth of flavors and smokiness from the peat.
While we flock to this one whenever we see it at a local bar, the cocktail program at the distillery is top notch and is worth the drive to Washington, PA, alone.
Liberty Pole Spirits is located at 68 W Maiden Street in Washington, PA.
Many of the cocktails here feature a combination of tropical juices, rums, and unusual spirits (all served in their own custom glassware), but the bar also has spirit forward creations like the Leaf & Bean (a rye, cacao, coffee, and tobacco bitters cocktail) that we have a hard time skipping over. Throw on classics available for half-off during happy hour, shared drinks for two or four, and more and you have a bar we return to time and time again.
Out of all of the cocktail bars featured in this guide, Hidden Harbor is also among the most popular and often has a short wait for a table when we arrive. Do not be discouraged, as their potent creations are worth the wait!
Hidden Harbor is located at 1708 Shady Avenue in Squirrel Hill.
While you could just as easily visit this one for their beer or wine programs, the cocktails at Lorelei can't be missed. Many of the cocktails here feature an array of European focused ingredients, be it Gewurztraminer wine, German brandy, Jager Manifest, aquavit, or others you may never have heard of before.
Still, do not let some of the unique ingredients deter you- the bartenders here truly know their stuff and put out some wonderfully delicious creations time and time again.
Lorelei is located at 124 S Highland Avenue in East Liberty.
Maggie's Farm Rum
If rum cocktails are what you seek, a trip to Maggie's Farm Rum in the Strip District is for you.
This distillery specializes in rum and puts out exceptional products be it through their white rum (designed in partnership with Hidden Harbor above) to their spiced rum, dark rum, and aged Queen's Share.
What is great about the cocktail program at this bar is that many creations rotate seasonally (making for great themed creations), but some staples like their delicious Pain Killer grace the menu regularly (it is one of our favorites in the city). This all comes together for a great bar where you can almost assuredly try something new, but also grab a few favorites as well!
Maggie's Farm Rum is located at 3212a Smallman Street in the Strip District.
Bridges & Bourbon
Bridges & Bourbon opened in the Cultural District in June 2019 and focuses on high-end cocktails with rather inventive flavor profiles, creative design, and served in customized glassware.
Many cocktails at this one contain a unique feature be it through smoked woodchips on the tasting tray or dry ice infused syrups for aroma purposes, or infused ice creations that melt over the course of your beverage to change the flavor profile with each passing sip.
While this one is on the more expensive end (average price is around $14-$15), there are options for those who are looking for more affordable cocktails ($10-$12) and those who want to splurge on something crazy ($18 or more). But, unlike a few of the other higher priced spots on this list, Bridges & Bourbon execute these well and is worth the splurge for creations you won't see all too often.
Bridges & Bourbon is located at 930 Penn Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh.
Prior to Bar Botanico opening, we were firm believers that Lawrenceville did not need another cocktail bar. But after having several rounds at Bar Botanico, we have to admit we were wrong.
The reason for this is that Bar Botanico delivers something the neighborhood was lacking outright- a higher-end craft cocktail experience at approachable prices (for the neighborhood at least). Throw in the bright ambiance and a stellar house food menu and you can see why it all comes together for a destination bar in this saturated neighborhood.
Much like other cocktail bars in the city, Bar Botanico offers a mix of house creations as well as takes on tried-and-true classics. But if you want something a bit more out-there, go for the Bartender's Choice cocktail where you give a few spirits or flavors you like and put your fate at the hands of the bartenders. Our sweet and smokey Lapsang Tea / Scotch cocktail was one of the best of the night!
Bar Botanico is located at 4325 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
If you are a grappa or amaro fan, a trip to Grapperia in Lawrenceville is for you. This cocktail bar (located just behind Piccolo Forno) has one of the largest collections of these two spirits we've ever seen and makes some rather unique cocktails that you, quite literally, won't find anywhere else.
While the bar has some rather conventional creations made with these spirits, they also have some that are truly off the wall and delicious- like the Show Me What You Got (pictured). This cocktail featured banana pepper infused grappa, blackberries, yellow chartreuse, ginger, and lime which all came together for a flavor profile unlike any we've had in recent memory.
Intrigued? You should be.
Grapperia is located at 3801 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
Note: Commerce Bar is only open for private parties at this time. We hope they will resume public operations here soon.
Commerce Bar opened in East Liberty in late 2019 and brands itself as a speakeasy, and this one goes all-in on the speakeasy theme. It is located behind Bird on the Run, has accessed through a jet black door with a doorknocker, and has a very underground vibe that harkens back to the days of Prohibition.
The cocktail menu here reads of a mix of modern takes on classic recipes as well as house invented cocktails, and you really cannot go wrong with either as they are all beautifully prepared with all the creations we've tried being perfectly balanced between the ingredients.
If you're in for a twist, roll the dice to challenge the bartender. In this scenario, you're given three dice and roll to see what you get. One spirit, two flavors, and it is up to the team to do the rest. By our count, that means 216 possible creations and you never know what will come up (ours was brandy, tart, and floral and was perhaps the best cocktail of the night- and we have no idea what was in it beyond that!).
Commerce Bar is located in the alley behind Bird on the Run in East Liberty. Bird on the Run is located at 128 S Highland Avenue. The rest is up to you.
Acacia is a speakeasy in Pittsburgh's South Side that we would argue is perhaps the best cocktail bar in Pittsburgh. This one hits all the points we love about cocktail bars in the city- use of high-end spirits, novel creations you'll be hard-pressed to try anywhere else, a rotating menu, and a rather unique ambiance.
The bar isn't a full speakeasy such that you have to find a hidden entrance or whisper a passcode in order to get in, but the signage is minimal and the first two times I visited I walked right by not knowing where I was going (which I'll call close enough).
In any case, if flawlessly executed cocktails are on your agenda, a trip to Acacia is an absolute must.
Acacia is located at 2108 E Carson Street in South Side.
Have a cocktail bar you think we should add to our list? Share it below and we'll visit right away!