This past year on our travels to the U.S. we noticed a pleasant little trend that we hope catches on in Niagara soon. The reinvention of the cocktail lounge in all its glory. These spots are generally small and intimate and offer interest peaking names like Killer Bees, Red Vespa and Sister Grimm. These fine establishments make handcrafted cocktails a work of art with the use of small batch distills, high quality bitters and fresh fruit and herbs.
My recent favourite is in a city that is near and dear to my heart, Buffalo, New York. I love Buffalo for its vibrant food scene, eclectic restaurants and raw talent. It is closer than Toronto is to Niagara and I feel like it’s my little secret. Buffalo Proper is located on Franklin Street not far from Mansion on Delaware if you are making a weekend of it. It is actually rather large and glorious and oozing with ambience. On my first trip with a girlfriend I tried a Mr. Mule with Vodka, Strawberry Basil shrub, Goslings Ginger beer and Fresh Basil. Sadly it took me several months to drag the Aussie over to show it off. I honestly think he just got sick of me talking about it and finally gave in. This time we tried a Snake Charmer with DonQ Crystal Rum, Lime, Sugar, Dry Red Wine and Mint. As a wine agent hubby is always looking for new cocktail ideas to promote to his clients and this one was a show stopper. My choice was Ginger Baker with Cachaca 61 rum, House Ginger, Jalepeno Cordial….I know…I know…Lime and Smashed Red Grapes. The menu is posted right by the kitchen and is small but intriguing. Locally sourced product from Oles Farm, T Meadow and Community Brew Works. A two pound Tomahawk steak or maybe roasted pig head croquette. Next time it’s food and a Killer Bee for me but maybe not the pig’s head! I think we’ll drag a few friends there with us as long as they promise not to tell everyone.
During the fall we got a chance to speak at Taste Trekkers Expo in Providence, Rhode Island and we got to talk about our love of food and wine and all things Niagara. After that we really worked up a thirst so before dinner we stopped by Eddy bar for a cocktail. Super cute and very old school we were thrilled to duck into here on a rainy fall night. Their food menu is a bit Mad Men meets new style Vegas. Things like devilled eggs. walrus and carpenter oysters and house made beef jerky with siracha. If my memory serves me right I had an Orange Julius Caesar with Shellback rum, Bols Yogurt Liquer, Lime juice, Vanilla, Bittermens Orange Cream Citrate and Orange Peel. It reminded me of a childhood creamsicle with a twist. We sat at the bar and enjoyed a few eggs and some bavarian pretzels and chatted with some locals. It made me wish I had such a place in my neighbourhood……it made just a little jealous. I brought home some bitters but have yet to try to recreate my cocktail.
Tender Bar + Kitchen is a real find in the heart of steel town Pittsburgh in the neighbourhood of Lawrenceville. Last spring we had a busy trip to Pitsburgh taking a fantastic food tour Burgh Bits & Bites, checking out the botanic garden and of course a cocktail bar! Tender’s name is inspired by the old bank building it is located in. It has a banker’s list of cocktails and remnants of its former business, a walk in safe. On a chilly winter’s night we opt for a mulled cider with Jamaican rum, sweet apple cider, Honey and Spices and a Bee’s Knees with Gin, Honey Lemon and Angostura bitters. American cocktail culture with a speak easy kind of feel. We will definitely be going back on our next road trip.