Last Updated on November 16, 2021 by Jeremy
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Lawrenceville Distilling started making craft spirits in their namesake neighborhood in 2018. Since then, their popularity increased quite a bit to the point that they were awarded the title of Pennsylvania's Gin Distillery in 2019 and Absinthe Distillery in 2020 by the New York International Spirits Competition.
Unfortunately for us, we only made it into this gem of a distillery (tucked away off of the booming Butler Street) in late 2021. While we would still say that this one only has a few spirits available to purchase, their cocktail program and resident food pop-up make for a delightful night out all around.
Only a Few Spirits at Lawrenceville Distilling, But Delicious Cocktails
When you look at Lawrenceville Distilling's lineup of spirits, you may not think there is much to go on. As of our visit, they offered just a vodka, two styles of gin, and two styles of absinthe. That is it.
As with most distilleries, this kind of makes sense. Other conventional spirits you may like, including whiskey, rum, and others, often require a substantial amount of time in barrel to get the aged characteristics we all know and love. For young distilleries, this is a bit of a chicken and the egg problem that often means that their portfolio is heavy in young, non-barrel aged products like vodka, gin, and more.
We'd be remiss if we said that this wasn't one of the reasons why it took us so long to get to Lawrenceville Distilling, but it kind of was. While we are big gin fans, vodka and absinthe are not our preferred spirits and that portion of the lineup was one of the contributing factors why we never prioritized visiting until recently.
So when we visited, it only took a few sips of our first round of cocktails for us to know that we were, without any sugarcoating it whatsoever, completely wrong in waiting.
During our visit, we were able to sample four cocktails. Three of which were takes on classics, including a gin Old Fashioned, a pumpkin spiced gin Old Fashioned, and a Sazerac, as well as one house creation from the “Cocktail Lab” known as Those Aren't Pillows. This one was an absinthe-forward cocktail with pineapple juice and aquafaba added for good measure.
The three classics were executed phenomenally well. The Old Fashioneds had that nice subtle sweetness we enjoy without being too strong to overpower the nuanced gin flavors (these made us get samples of the two gins neat, where we realized we really liked the floral notes of the Jaggerbush Gin and left with a bottle). The Sazerac, while made with another distillery's whiskey, highlighted the complexity of their absinthe- particularly in the aroma department.
Those Aren't Pillows, on the other hand, was a beast. For those who do not like anise, this will not be for you. The best way I can describe the flavor of this cocktail is that it tasted like one of those sweet, licorice-flavored gummy candies. But as someone who is averse to that particular flavor, I'd qualify it as an actually good licorice-flavored gummy (this distinction is needed). This was most certainly a one-and-done kind of cocktail for us, there is no sugar coating that, but if you are an absinthe fan this one highlights the versatility of the otherwise intense spirit.
Don't Miss Eating at Bodega Off Butler
When we visited Lawrenceville Distilling, they also had a resident restaurant pop-up inside the distillery- Bodega Off Butler.
This one has a fairly straightforward menu of nachos and burritos with numerous filling options of meat and vegetarian features like carrots. We opted for a carrot burrito and nachos with pork sausage and thought they were just the right amount of food for our night out- not terribly huge, but just right for a decent meal. The carrots had a pretty phenomenal texture and made us want to try vegetarian options like this at home (sous vide carrot tacos, anyone?).
The only real note we have about the food is to not be surprised if the cheese on the nachos is rather runny. Ours pooled at the bottom of our container and we, unfortunately, ate most of our chips as well as our burrito before realizing it. Had we noticed this, we would've done what the table next to us did and poured the extra cheese on top of our burritos. A pro move we will most certainly adopt next time.
Beyond this, you'll do well to check out Bodega Off Butler's collection of hot sauces at the table- it is a seriously impressive collection.
Overall, despite Lawrenceville Distilling's relatively young spirits lineup, we were impressed with their cocktail program as well as the pop-up restaurant as well. As such, we really look forward to returning to this one again soon and cannot wait to see what they come up with next!
Looking for more Pittsburgh distilleries? Check out our guide at the previous link!