Pittsburgh bartender Spencer Warren does Vegas

By Jocelyn Meehan

Take it from Snoop: One thing that can make juice better is adding a little gin.

And even… Take it from Snoop: One thing that can make juice better is adding a little gin.

And even though Snoop is not a master mixologist, bartenders like Spencer Warren of Firehouse Lounge in the Strip District understand that gin mixed with the right ingredients can make a great drink — one that can earn someone a ticket to Vegas.

On Aug. 16, Warren and a group of other bartenders mixed, fused and blended gin cocktails at 5ive Lounge in Station Square in a competition judged by James Moreland, a master mixologist. Moreland came to Pittsburgh seeking an inspired bartender to advance to Vegas for a three-day gin-mixing contest.

Dubbed “Search for the Most Inspired Bartender,” this yearly nationwide competition is hosted by the United States Bartenders’ Guild and sponsored by GQ Magazine and Bombay Sapphire Gin company. The competition began with local rounds in 40 large cities, challenging bartenders to create an original, inspired cocktail using Bombay Sapphire Gin.

5ive Lounge hosted the competition to decide the Pittsburgh contender. After careful deliberation, the prize-winning Pittsburgh bartender was Warren, with his signature cocktail named “Bitter Silence.”

“Bitter Silence,” made with Bombay Sapphire, Aperol, Antica vermouth, float of Green Chartreuse, simple syrup and mint leaves, got its name from Green Chartreuse-brewing monks who took vows of silence.

The inspiration for Warren’s drink came from his own favorite cocktail preference, a Negroni. Traditionally a pre-dinner cocktail intended to stimulate the appetite, a Negroni is made with gin, vermouth and bitters.

While Warren had worked with the individual ingredients and understood the flavor properties of each one, the “Bitter Silence” was the first time he had combined them. Warren discovered the final “Bitter Silence” after eight tries and tweaked it once more before his trip to Vegas.

Warren’s Negroni “Bitter Silence” was dubbed “Most Inspired” and has accelerated him to the competition’s next level in Las Vegas at the end of the month. Once there, he will compete against 40 top mixologists from across the United States for the ultimate title.

Warren’s cocktail, along with those created by competing mixologists, will be judged on appearance, style, taste, aroma, accessibility, creativity and product knowledge.

Last year, the event began at a rooftop lounge, with the lights of the city as a majestic backdrop. On the second night, the top 10 bartenders were selected, and on the third night, Christian Sanders of Miami was crowned the Most Inspired Bartender 2009, with his drink called “The Garden Sour Hour.”

“The Garden Sour Hour” was made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Galliano Liqueur, lemon juice, agave syrup, simple syrup, honey syrup, freshly extracted celery juice, dill paste and dashes of orange bitters.

This year, Warren hopes he will fair as well as Sanders did with his own drink, but he’s also concerned about doing it in style.

“I have to figure out what to wear,” Warren joked as he added that GQ Magazine was co-sponsoring the event.

Warren also needs to figure out where he can get supplies when he arrives in Vegas. When these things are settled, Warren said he will be prepared and excited for the competition.

Warren’s “Bitter Silence” Recipe

“Bitter Silence” ingredients include: 1 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin, 1 oz. Aperol, 3/4 oz. Antica Vermouth, float of Green Chartreuse, 1/2 oz. simple syrup and 8-10 mint leaves.

In a pint glass, combine the mint leaves and simple syrup and muddle.

Add ice, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Aperol and Antica and shake vigorously.

Pour over fresh ice in a glass and add a Green Chartreuse float.

Warren’s Tips

Warren offered several tips for of-age students want to taste handcrafted cocktails in Pittsburgh.

“Try things: Don’t always go for an apple martini,” Warren said.

He also noted that people shouldn’t be afraid of gin and bourbon, because, unlike vodka that’s colorless, odorless and flavorless, mixing with these drinks will actually bring out delicious flavors.

“Also, try going somewhere where the bartenders use fresh ingredients,” Warren said.

You’ll be able to taste the difference when you drink a cocktail that’s mixed with real lime juice, as opposed to one that’s prepared with a pre-made blend.

Becoming a master mixologist doesn’t happen overnight. However, if you are 21 and are feeling inspired, attempt to recreate Warren’s award- winning drink during your, “end of the first week of classes celebration.”

With bitter hints of grapefruit, this drink will surely satisfy your taste buds, while dazzling your friends with your mixing skills.

This way, you’ll be able to party classier than Snoop, while using the key ingredient to one of his favorite mixed drinks

Also, remember: When drinking gin-infused drinks, make sure to “roll down the street” responsibly on foot.

Editor’s Note: The Pitt News does not condone underage drinking. Students who drink underage risk punishment from the University and police.