- Heather Mull
- Welcome to Hog Heaven
When he ordered his vodka martinis "shaken, not stirred" with a "thin slice of lemon peel," fictional British Secret Service agent James Bond was doing what he did best: strafing the rules, and with a touch of panache.
After all, until vodka commandeered the martini world in the 1950s, the "traditional" version of the drink called for gin and vermouth with (usually) an olive garnish. So, in his suave, snarky manner, Bond participated in the mythology of the martini, whether it should: be shaken or stirred (to prevent ice chipping); use gin or vodka; contain more or less vermouth; or sport a savory or citrus garnish, if at all.
The debate still swirls within cocktail culture, with only subjective equations for what constitutes the best -- or truest -- martini.
At Harris Grill, in Shadyside, there's now at least one new variable: bacon. On Tuesday nights from 6:30 until, as advertised, "the pigs come home" at midnight, the bar features bacon in all its fatty glory: $1 baskets of crisp bacon at tables; free baskets of bacon on the bar (if you can snag a spot); and, of course, bacon martinis.
"I don't know if it's a drink you could have two or three of in a row," laughs Harris Grill bartender Byron Nash, referring to the "bakon-tini," or as it's officially known, "Hog Heaven."
Made with 3 oz. of 80-proof Bakon Vodka (they used to make one in-house, but found this brand superior ... and more practical), Colgin Liquid Smoke and a dash of Tabasco sauce, Hog Heaven is served chilled with a crispy slice of bacon, which replaces the traditional lemon peel or green olives.
Tiny flecks of fat from the garnish float on top, and your first sip tastes like drinking liquefied family barbeque. But while "Hog Heaven" loosely fits into the martini category and is certainly not for the weak-stomached or the casual hog-back enthusiast, the drink is deceptively complex: It's both savory and rich, and the "natural mesquite" liquid smoke, which Nash says they "treat like a bitters," adds subtle creaminess and dampens the vodka bite.
"The key is to balance everything," Nash explains. "If there's too much of something, especially liquid smoke," the drink will be unpalatable.