Kevin Sousa's patrons have long enjoyed creative, and carefully constructed, drinks: the rotating mix of brilliant cocktails at Salt of the Earth; jelly jars and Rock & Rye at Union Pig and Chicken; agua frescas at Station Street Hot Dogs. But at those joints, the food claims center stage. Not so at the just-opened Harvard and Highland.
"It's a pure cocktail bar," says Sousa of his newest venture, which is located above Union Pig & Chicken. The intimate, inviting room features floor-to-ceiling windows, colorful Adirondack chairs and burnished wood floors — all invoking the feel of a New England summer cottage.
And the focus is on preparing and serving high-caliber cocktails (though freshly prepared, non-alcoholic sodas will also be available). Summer Voelker, a longtime Sousa bartender, is in charge of the bar.
"We're in good hands. She just gets better and better at what she's doing" says Sousa.
Voelker says she's inspired by the challenge. "We can do this on a larger scale," she says, adding that her cocktail list will feature "more flavors and more interesting things." Eventually, the menu will indulge in whimsical molecular mixology, in which bartenders craft drinks that would look at home on a Star Trek set.
There are no carbonated mojito spheres at the moment, though. The menu currently reflects Pittsburgh's transition into autumn: offerings include the delectable Union Manhattan (bourbon, rye, luxarado, smoked onion Fernet Branca) and the inviting Agnatha & Anni (Bluecoat gin, yellow chartreuse, lingonberry, grapefruit).
Additionally, Voelker is inviting four out-of-town bartenders each year to curate a complimentary drink menu. First up is Josh Pearson from Chicago bar Sepia, whose four-drink list includes a savory concoction called New World Old Fashioned (butternut squash infused bourbon, mole bitters, agave).
Finally, don't be surprised to see Sousa himself behind the bar from time to time. Voelker says the new location has gotten his creative juices flowing — and he's "already asked to work shifts."