“A proper drink at the right time – one mixed with care and skill and served in a true spirit of hospitality – is better than any other made thing at giving us the illusion, at least, that we’re getting what we want from life.”
– David Wondrich
Cocktail historian and author, Squirrel Hill native
While at heart a craft beer bar, the Independent aims to honor and extend the rich tradition of spirits and cocktails of the Pittsburgh region, with a particular emphasis on fresh, local products; these include local spirits from the Boyd & Blair, Wigle, and Maggie’s Farm distilleries, and local seasonal produce where possible. We also incorporate the bar’s local craft brew in regular “boilermaker” pairings and the occasional beer cocktail.
On an everyday basis, we offer a well-curated list of spirits for enjoying neat, on a rock of ice that we chainsaw in-house from blocks of clear sculpting ice, or with local seltzer water. We also offer at all times two spirits-forward barrel-aged cocktails, which we lightly age in white oak barrels to meld and “soften” the flavors of the component spirits and obtain new and interesting flavors from the charred wood, along with two lighter bottled cocktails, which we carbonate and bottle in house. Our work on these cocktails is mostly done behind the scenes, allowing them to be served to you quickly and with a minimum of fuss.
On Saturdays, we complement these quicker quaffs with a changing menu of a half-dozen cocktails made to order by our house cocktologist (he hates that word), featuring more unusual ingredients, advanced techniques, and creative presentations – but always deployed in the service of tasty drinks. This menu almost always includes at least one Tiki-inspired drink, whatever the season; in the hands of pioneers like Don the Beachcomber, these faux--tropical potions were true farm-to-glass creations, and we hope to do our small part to continue to spread their gospel.
We also mix it up with guest bartenders and special events. In the first guest bartender spot, Lucky the Painproof Man (he’s also a sideshow performer) took the Independent “native” with a menu of Tiki-tinged creations featuring flourishes like ice cones and flaming torch garnishes. Most recently, the Independent welcomed the fine folks from Stay Tuned Distillery in Munhall and offered a menu of cocktails using their new gin, “PathoGin,” in classic and original ways.
We grant that our approach may strike some as a bit “split” in its personality, but it reflects the goals of the Independent’s spirits and cocktail program, which are at once both modest and ambitious. First and foremost, we aim simply to be a place where residents and guests of Squirrel Hill can get a quality drink that comes attractively presented and hospitably served. At the same time, we also hope to offer new and interesting drinks that push the envelope in the best way and attract and excite even the most dedicated cocktail geeks.
Whatever your level of interest and experience, we look forward to serving you soon. Cheers.