When it comes to neighborhoods to drink at in Pittsburgh, odds are good your first thought is not Squirrel Hill. This popular neighborhood for college students, Jewish delis, and Asian restaurants has a few bars, but is not as bustling in nightlife as other neighborhoods nearby.
This is now changing, and the tiki lounge Hidden Harbor is one of several new additions to the neighborhood worth checking out when you are in the mood for a drink!
Boat Drinks at Their Finest
Our favorite drink from our first visit to Hidden Harbor was a tie between Josie's Faraway Vacation and the Tokyo Drift.
Josie's Faraway Vacation takes arrack, an especially potent rum from South East Asia (a spirit I was indifferent with when I was traveling in Sri Lanka), and pairs it with tamer Jamaican rum, lime, Curacao, basil, chili, ginger, mint, and a heaping amount of coconut. This is all blended together and frozen in a soft serve machine, making it the ideal boat drink you never knew you wanted.
Tokyo Drift was one of those cocktails I almost didn't order out of a dislike of sake (for very similar reasons to arrack), but I was won over after seeing countless go by me and wondering what the cocktail was. Served out of a golden fish statue, with a hulled out lime containing passion fruit popping pearls in its mouth, the Tokyo Drift combines sake, gin, lemon, ginger, burnt orange chai, jasmine tea, and bitters into an incredibly fruity combination. Take a sip, bite into a pearl, and be blown away.
We sampled two more drinks during our visit- the first being the Greenjacket, their take on a mojito made with cryogenically frozen mint (muddled with liquid nitrogen!) as well as a special menu item, the iconic Singapore Sling- both solid drinks in their own right but did not stack up to our first two as well as I would've liked. Not because they were bad, but rather the first two were just that good.
Even Better on a Return Visit
During our first visit to Hidden Harbor, we noted that a lot of drinks contained ingredients derived from tree nuts. After speaking with the owners at Hidden Harbor about this we were pleasantly surprised to find a new menu on our second visit which clearly states which items contain possible allergens (including tree nuts), notes that alternative ingredients can be used (hooray!), as well as even more creations to try!
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Our second visit coincided with their Weird Science Wednesdays promotion and we were able to try some molecular gastronomy inspired drinks. Our favorite from the evening was the Pearl Diver, a rum mix containing ample spices, falernum, and a side coconut-lime popping pearl that you shoot from a half-shell. Drinking has never been so much fun.
On this particular visit we also tried the pu pu platter from Hidden Harbor's small food menu. This platter contains a decent cross-section of their menu items including meatballs, pork sliders, tuna poke, and chips- a perfect accompaniment to a night of tropical drinks if I've ever had one.
A Novel Feature that We Simply Love
The best part about Hidden Harbor is that their drink menu contains a handy reference guide for their unique and sometimes wacky cocktail glasses.
Want to know what your neighbor is drinking? Trust us when we say that the entire bar wants to know that answer too! Rather than bugging the bartender over and over again, all you have to do is look down at the menu, find the corresponding glass shape, and read for yourself.
It sounds so simple, but to be honest this is the entire reason I ordered the Tokyo Drift in the first place. So many went by that I had to know what it was. After reading it on the menu (despite my objections to sake), I was sold and ordered one right away. There is something to be said about that simple menu feature being such a game changer for us, and I can really appreciate this unique feature here.
Although we personally may not be able to enjoy every beverage on the menu at Hidden Harbor, what we were able to try won us over on the tiki movement and we (or rather I) am looking forward to returning again very soon to try more.
Hidden Harbor is located at 1708 Shady Avenue in Squirrel Hill. Reservations are highly recommended.
For more inventive drinks in Pittsburgh head to Wigle Whiskey, Brillobox, or Maggie's Farm Rum! Or, for more reviews of Pittsburgh restaurants, click the previous link to be taken to our directory of every review on Discover the Burgh!