Spirits: Embury returns! City's one true cocktail bar is rising again on the South Side
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Bars come and bars go, but cocktail lovers were particularly saddened when Embury, the Strip District speakeasy that served classic cocktails and little else, closed on Aug. 1 of last year.
And those same cocktail lovers will be pleased to learn that Embury is returning, in a new space and a new neighborhood -- Pittsburgh's South Side. Because, while Pittsburgh has many fine restaurants that serve many fine cocktails, it still lacks a true cocktail bar.
Spencer Warren, who owned Embury and its sister club, Firehouse, has purchased the building and accompanying liquor license at 2108 E. Carson St., now occupied by Z Lounge, a small club itself verging on institution status on the South Side, thanks to popular bar manager Ova Shofa and its ecclectic DJs.
Mr. Warren and jewelry designer pal Justin Giunta are at work turning the top floor of Z Lounge into the new Embury, a space Mr. Warren says will have a bit of a Persian look. He plans for it to be a 25-and-over club, and hopes that his most frequent customers will buy annual memberships that will give them first dibs when out-of-town bartenders or hard-to-obtain liquors appear at the bar.
"We had a great, loyal following at Embury," he said, and he hopes that crowd will follow him to the raucous South Side. He also hopes that the upstairs bar will draw the bulk of its clientele Sunday through Thursday, avoiding the crowds and troubles that come with Friday and Saturday business.
With no kitchen to speak of, the focus upstairs will be on cocktails, "hundreds" of bourbons and a list of bottled beers. Mr. Warren said the new Embury may partner with Cure, the meat-focused Lawrenceville restaurant, to provide pre-plated charcuterie and cheese platters for customers who want a bite to eat.
Owning the building, Mr. Warren said, will help him avoid the landlord run-ins and leasing issues that were among the reasons he left his old Firehouse space on Penn Avenue, now occupied by Bar Marco.
Mr. Warren and his business partners will continue to operate the bottom floor as Z Lounge, at least for the time being, though that name could change by next year. The new Embury, meanwhile, should be open by mid-September, he said, and the bars could soon be complemented by a deck, one of the most popular features of the old club at the former Engine Co. No. 7.
The former Embury -- true to its pre-Prohibition era motif -- did not keep vodka in stock (vodka was not popular in the United States until after World War II). Mr. Warren said he's not sure if the new one will, either.
• Wigle Whiskey, Pittsburgh's first whiskey distillery since Prohibition, has begun making test batches of genever, or Dutch Gin, the gin-like, juniper-flavored liquor that is a forerunner to today's modern gin (it also goes by "jenever" and several other spellings). The distillery hopes to settle on a final recipe for its "old-style," whiskey-based genever this month, and if all goes well with labeling approval, the genever could be available for purchase by autumn.
• Franktuary, the Downtown hot dog shop, is a step closer to opening a Lawrenceville location, having obtained a liquor license for 3810 Butler St., across the street from Coca Cafe. The new place could be serving cocktails and beer by October, said Tim Tobitsch, Franktuary's co-owner.
Also, the Chalkboard Cafe and Pub at 800 10th Ave. (Freeport Road) in Brackenridge has received its liquor license, and is set to open July 20, while the Allegheny Wine Mixer, a new wine bar at 5326 Butler St., is scheduled to open next month.
Other pending licenses in Allegheny County include one for Slate Restaurant LLC (at 24 Donati Road, Bethel Park, formerly Cafe Georgio).
First Published July 12, 2012 12:00 am