Pittsburgh Bars (2009)

If you live in or visit Pittsburgh and also happen to be a lover of cocktails we have some recommendations for you:

Kelly’s Bar & Lounge (6012 Penn Circle South, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (412) 363-6012)
Say what you like about this retro dive-esque bar, but they make a mighty fine cocktail and proper (with the minor exception of a Pimm’s Cup coming in glassware, but we don’t blame them). They make a Montmarte like no other AND have the best jukebox in Pittsburgh. Delicious bar fare and large selection of beer will also drive up your bill, but for $6 a cocktail it is worth it. Try their award winning mac and cheese or their delicious french fries.
Fun Fact: In a scene of the 1978 film The Deer Hunter.

Olive or Twist (140 6th St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 (412) 255-0524)
They are fancy here. And expensive (about $10 a cocktail). But if you’re looking for classics such as the Sidecar and Martinez made with premium liquors, and happen to be downtown, they’re worth the trip. Food menu is heavy on meat (vegetarian diners, sorry), but the calamari was excellent. Atmosphere is industrial chic and dimly lit.

Bossa Nova (123 7th St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 (412) 232-3030)
Bossa Nova is not on the list because of the couches and the rumor that the Pens like to come here. They’re also closed on Sundays, fyi. No, their respect for the art of the cocktail is what makes them a winner. Negronis and French 75s cost much less than the $13 modern “martinis” – they do atleast acknowledge that the proper martini has been fought over for years on their website. Fantastic tapas menu, but the girls-night-out atmosphere may deter some.

Embury (2216 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA‎ (412) 434-1230)
We’re very sorry to say that Embury (and its less stylish brother The Firehouse Lounge) is currently closed due to rent issues and may or may not re-open somewhere else. We were there on the second to last day to say a fond farewell.
Oh Embury, how we adore your stylish little bar below the Firehouse Lounge in the Strip District. Oh Embury, how we wish we could afford your $10 expertly crafted cocktails on a regular basis. The food is good enough (from upstairs via hidden staircase in the bookshelves lining the wall – for serious) but the drinks are unforgettable. Named for David Embury, father of premium mixology in our opinion. Don’t bring more than 4 people – the bar is that small. Parking is free for customers.

Best List

  • Best Margaritas – Mad Mex (any location, but we frequent the Oakland location) especially during any holiday when they have unique flavors like Pumpkin, Candy Cane, and Apple Cider. Cocktail menu is short and sweet, but avoid the Red Sangaria and Hibiscus cocktail – go for an excellent Big Azz Margarita. Get it frozen, because they freeze the booze and you’ll get more alcohol for your dollars. Specials are generous. Food is AMAZING. There are no words to describe how amazing their food is. Just go.
  • Best Pitcher of Shots – Hemingway’s Cafe (Oakland) this may just be the recent college graduates in us yearning for the days of splitting many pitchers of shots and drinking them out of condiment cups, but they do some pretty tasty flavors like Blowpop and Washington Apple. They make a mean “customized” pizza. Every night of the week you’ll find a great special on a draft, like Circus Boy or Yuengling.
  • Best In-menu Humor – Harris Grill (Shadyside) mixes twists on the classics like Manhattans and Martinis with their own creations like bacon infused vodka. This place loves bacon, and on Tuesdays you can get a free basket while you drink at the bar. Food is pretty OK, chili is excellent. Bacon aside, it’s locally famous for the frozen cosmo happy hour.
  • Best Prices – The Map Room (Regent Square area) when we got our bill I was speechless. I had a Plymouth Gin Ricky in this quite little cartography bar and restaurant and was charged less than $5. The fantastic modern bar food was also a great price. The selection of beers on tap, just for the East End Brewery collection alone, is worth a trip. The friendly people and small bar atmosphere will only make you glad you came. Go here before any movie at the Regent Square Theater.

Is there any place (local, not a national chain) in Pittsburgh that you think have stellar cocktails? Let us know, we’d love to try it.

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