Leo. a public house opened its doors in Pittsburgh's North Side (Manchester neighborhood) in early 2019. In doing so the bar joins its sister restaurant, Lola Bistro, in calling a lesser-visited part of the city home- something we always appreciate.
Not being ones to say no to a cocktail bar, you should know we rushed down to check this one out shortly after opening.
Vodka Infusions and Craft Creations at Leo
Within seconds of walking into Leo, you'll feel quite welcomed. The bar is located on the first floor of a converted house in Manchester, and the layout retains much of its residential charm.
Your first view is of the bar and its wrap-around seating, and two additional seating areas are attached that feel a bit like cozy nooks in a friend's house- perfect for a few rounds of cocktails.
The menu here is predominantly cocktails (with some wine and draft beer available), and over two dozen creations grace the menu. The vast majority contain house-made vodka infusions as the base spirit (ranging from the conventional strawberry to more unusual porcini), but the bar also has a few novel creations plus classics as well.
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During our long visit with friends, we ended up sampling five cocktails- the Buki Tini (lemongrass and lime leaf vodka with coconut water and ginger), the Ramp Gibson (ramp vinegar with vodka), the Rusty Leo (scotch, Drambuie, and seabuckthorn preserves), a Strawberry Lemon Drop (strawberry vodka with simple syrup, lemon, and Cointreau), and a trusty Manhattan with Old Overholt Rye (a whiskey originally from the area).
Let's first start with the winner- the Rusty Leo. Yes, our favorite cocktail here was not a vodka infusion, but one of the more fortified options that had a wonderful balance between the tart fruit preserves (something we've never tried before visiting here), honey from the Drambuie, and subtle scotch tones. As far as inventive cocktails are concerned, this one checked a lot of boxes for us.
The Buki Tini and Strawberry Lemon Drop came next as the vodka infusions had some pretty intense flavors that were balanced well with the other mixers. I would say that these came off a bit simple overall, comparable to what you'd expect from, say, a martini bar (and dare I say, erring on the side of too sweet), but were refreshing all the same.
The Ramp Gibson is the bar's take on a dirty martini and featured ramp infused vinegar plus vodka. Take whatever flavor you have in your mind right now, and you are probably pretty close to imagining this. It is tart, a bit vegetal, and every bit the opposite of the sweet vodka infusions mentioned above. It makes us want to try the other unique house creations like the Bloody Margaret (featuring porcini vodka), but we will need to plan our visit around more savory drinks instead of the sweet options.
The only cocktail that was a bit of a letdown for me was the Manhattan, if only because its relatively mild flavors were not the best of choices for a final drink after the sweet and tart creations we had in the first rounds. I'll say this one was my own fault as I should've ordered my drinks in reverse order- my tongue simply wasn't ready for the shift.
One of the best parts about our outing at Leo was that every cocktail we ordered came in at $9- an attractive price point for just about any modern bar in the city.
Leo also has a limited food menu that includes items ranging from salads to pate and banh mi sandwiches; however, during our first visit we opted to enjoy cocktails only (but will update this review when we return and order food).
Overall, we're always happy for more cocktail bars to open in the city, especially in unique spots. With a long cocktail list, attractive price points, and novel creations, we look forward to returning to more soon!
Leo is located at 1207 Allegheny Avenue in Pittsburgh's Manchester neighborhood.