Where We’ve Been Drinking: James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy
At this conference in Pittsburgh for food and drink writers, we ended the one of the evenings by dispersing to various Pittsburgh night spots. One of the recommended venues, James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy, was conveniently located just a few doors down from where I was staying.
On a first glance, the ‘pub’ part was easier to see than the ‘gastro.’ It was a lively neighborhood pub, simultaneously inviting and a little intimidating in the way someone else’s local always is, like walking into a stranger’s living room for a drink. Also, jazz was advertised but the band was definitely playing blues. I asked the host about it, and she said, ‘Oh, the jazz is outside, around the corner, through the unmarked door, and up the back stairs.’ Apparently, the jazz was in the ‘Speakeasy.’
I followed her instructions and found myself in a place that looked to me like what would happen when you mixed one part 40s jazz hall and one part high school gym. In other words, it was just like a VFW banquet hall. Also, the bar reminded me of the bar in a dance club, and not the main dance club bar, but the one in the upstairs room that no one ever goes to: a few random looking bottles on a shelf. But the jazz sounded good, and I was hungry; so I figured I’d take a look at the menu.
The food was indeed typical pub food, but the burger I ordered was cheap and tasted pretty good and actually came out medium rare as I had ordered. And the jazz still sounded good. So I thought I’d order a drink; it had been a few minutes since my last one after all.
Here I found a hidden gem.
What I ordered
Gin Red Sour: gin, lemon, meringue, and a red wine float.
What I thought
I’ve had gin sours. I’ve seen gin sours with a froth. I’ve had whiskey sours with a red wine float. But it’s never occurred to me to put a sour, gin, a froth, and a wine float together in one drink. It caught my eye because it shows just the amount of creativity I usually like, just a little twist on the expected. And furthermore it worked. The gin came through more than I feared, entering into a surprisingly delicate balance with the lemon and wine, and all of it was lightened up by that addition of the froth.
It goes to show that you don’t need a ton of bottles if you know what to do with the ones you have.
Gin Red Sour Cocktail Recipe
- 2 oz gin–use your mixing gin here, nothing fancy
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 1 oz sugar
- egg white (don’t be scared. you’ll love it)
- 1/2 oz or so of cheap red wine
- Shake the gin, lemon juice, sugar, and egg white with ice for as long as you can possibly stand it, so that the egg white gets nice and frothy.
- Strain into an ice-filled highball.
- Very slowly, very carefully pour the wine on top. It’s tricky, but if you do it right, the wine will sink just below the froth, and you’ll have a very pretty drink with a gin layer on the bottom, a red wine band in the middle, and a meringue on top. It not only makes the drink look great, but the order of taste really matters.