At many bars, bartenders are free to cherry-pick from a range of cultures and traditions, creating cocktails with global roots. But at Poros, which opened Downtown last month, the drink menu needed to be regionally anchored, brimming with the flavors of Greece and the Mediterranean Sea.
“The fun part for me was falling in love with ouzo,” explains lead bartender Carrie Clayton, who designed the impressive cocktail menu. “Ouzo has always been a really bad four-letter word.” Stocking more than a dozen varieties of ouzo and its close cousins, raki and arak, Poros is challenging the anise-flavored spirit’s reputation as hangover-inducing firewater.
Ouzo is hardly the only Mediterranean ingredient on the menu. The Death of Adonis, for instance, pairs tsipouro (a grappa-like Greek brandy) with Pimm’s, egg white and Greek honey. For the three house tonics, Clayton sourced hard-to-find herbs such as sumac and dittany, a wild herb that grows on the cliffs of Crete. And true to European tastes, fortified wines like sherry and vermouth pop up frequently. Clayton even put a red vermouth on tap. “I’m hoping to get people to drink vermouth on ice all the time,” she says.
Speaking of taps, Poros has 10, including three lines dedicated to local breweries. Hop Farm is working on a custom beer for Poros, a hefeweizen brewed with dill, Greek oregano and coriander. The wine list focuses on Mediterranean grapes like Xinomavro and Grenache, highlighting wines from lesser-known regions in Greece, Turkey and beyond.
Nailing authentic flavors took some time. “The Greek spirits were a little tough to work with at first,” explains Clayton. “I did probably a month of research before I started to play.” The hard work paid off, however, and Poros boasts a beverage selection that rivals its sizable menu of seafood and small plates. Though there may be a few unfamiliar words, Clayton encourages guests not to be intimidated. “Just ask us lots of questions!”
Two PPG Place, Downtown. www.porospgh.com