Evangeline is the resident cocktail bar at the Distrikt Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, and opened its doors for business in summer 2017.
With a upscale lounge feel, we were eager to find out how this one fits in downtown's growing cocktail scene.
Classic Cocktails in an Elegant Ambiance
The second you step foot in Evangeline, you'll feel transported to a different era. There is something about this spot that makes you feel like you are in a classier age where time stops when drinks are concerned.
It could be the open spaces speckled with seating areas of various configurations. It could be the wide bar with sleek dark wood tones. It could be that the clientele is either in the city on business or on a fancy night about the town. Or maybe all of this comes together for an ambiance that transcends it all and is, in a word, elegant.
No matter what it is exactly, we won't complain, as this sort of spot is few and far between in Pittsburgh.
During our visit we were able to try three cocktails, and despite the cost we have to say that each ended up being better than the last.
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The first cocktail we sampled was the Seelbach, the bar's take on the champagne cocktail created by the hotel of the same name in Louisville, Kentucky. This one contains Maker's Mark, Cointreau, Bitters, and a champagne fill that offered a solid balance between the champagne and spirits with an orange kick that really brought it all together. (And between you and me, was even better than the one we had at the actual Seelbach a few months back!)
The second cocktail was the Broken Arrow, containing a mix of aged rum and bourbon as well as Demerara, an allspice dram, and bitters. Call it a take on an Old Fashioned, but one where the bartender didn't want to decide whether to make a bourbon or rum iteration and opted to do both in a way that surprisingly works. You get the rum. You get the bourbon. And the demerara and allspice dram add subtle flavors that compliment the main spirits perfectly.
The final cocktail, the Cafe Nuevo, was perhaps the most unique of the night, and was a blend of Tito's vodka, Maggie's coffee liquor, Pedro Ximenez Sherry (a personal favorite from Spain), Cynar, espresso, egg whites, and grated espresso bean on top for good measure. Call it a White Russian if you like, but this one takes it to a new level and will also ensure you don't get to sleep anytime soon after drinking it- it is that potent.
Suffice it to say, you must try it.
Going beyond the cocktails, Evangeline also offers an on-site seafood and oyster bar with tasting platters that serve anywhere from two to ten (or so) people. However, as we did not have an extra $100-$200 burning a hole in our pocket on this particular visit, we have to earmark that one for a return trip in the future for the full experience.
Who is Up for the $25 Smoke Show?
As much as we enjoyed the cocktails we tried at Evangeline, part of me would be remiss if I didn't talk about their star attraction- the Smoke Show.
This cocktail is as unique as it is flamboyant. It is the restaurants take on a Classic Manhattan (complete with an absinthe rinse- a lost ingredient these days), that is smoked right in front of you in a bell sleeve. At $25 a cocktail it is out of our budget, but the guests next to us ordered one and, after proclaiming “this better be the best Manhattan I've ever had,” seemed quite pleased with the final product.
One day I'll bring myself to try it, as cocktail master Michael Anderson created what has been my favorite Manhattan to date during his days at Butcher and the Rye, but my wallet was feeling a little light after the three already fairly pricey concoctions and I had to pass.
When it is all said and done, Evangeline is a stellar cocktail bar and is something downtown Pittsburgh can always use more of. The ambiance, like the rest of the hotel, is vibrant and high end- evoking a thought of being best suited for after work business meet-ups over a traditional drinking destination in its own right. (Although those who want something a bit more modern can take a few steps over to Or, the Whale for a virtually identical menu and completely different ambiance.)
But if I have to be honest, I'm not entirely sure if Pittsburgh is ready for this cocktail bar just yet.
The price tag of upwards of $14 per drink is pushing it even for those who have drinks on the town regularly like we do, and even when accounting for the fact that they are practically perfect in every way, it is still a steep price. But those who make the effort to visit this one for a drink will not be let down as Michael and team have a true gem on their hands here.
Now we just have to get back to try the oysters and the Smoke Show.
Time to save our pennies for a feast!
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