Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Steven Soderbergh Brings Bolivian Spirit to Pittsburgh

The award-winning director/producer returns to the city where he spent part of his childhood with Singani 63.




photos by Hal B. Klein
 

Steven Soderbergh, award-winning director of films such as Traffic, Erin Brockovich and Magic Mike, as well as the television series The Knick, last Sunday joined members of the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia chapters of the United States Bartender's Guild in a luxury suite at PNC Park to watch the Buccos defeat the New York Yankees and, more importantly, to introduce the bartenders to his signature booze line: Singani 63.  

"Most people have never heard of it. But it has a 500-year legacy that you can talk about,” Soderbergh says.

Singani is the most popular spirit in Bolivia. It currently is classified by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as brandy, though Soderbergh now is working to create a new category for the spirit because of its unique qualities. Singani must be distilled from a single-origin grape — Muscat of Alexandria — that's grown at over 5,200 feet of altitude in the Bolivian Andes; singani also is distilled at the high altitude. 

Soderbergh was introduced to singani in 2007 while he was in Bolivia filming the biopic Che. He quickly was smitten with the spirit, but later discovered that nobody exported to the United States, a roadblock that would make his continued enjoyment of singani significantly more difficult. He signed up to change that — no easy task — working with the Bolivian distillery Casa Real to bring Singani 63 to the United States. "I've learned the hard was that if there's an idea that's in the aether and you don't move on it, someone else will,” he says.

“I'm just trying to champion something someone else did and move the narrative from Bolivia to here. I never get tired of telling this story,” he adds.
 


None of this matters, of course, if the spirit isn’t tasty; “Celebrity hawks a signature line of booze as vanity project” is old news. Only a few of them, such as Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo tequila, live up to the hype. Count Soderbergh’s project among that group. 

The spirit has an intensely floral nose, a product of the grape’s thick, aromatic skin. The florality still is noticeable on the palate, but it’s balanced with notes of pepper, green herbs and a tinge of acidity. It finishes smooth and lingers a little longer than other similar spirits such as pisco. Soderbergh touted its versatility in cocktail-making; USBG Pittsburgh members demonstrated that when they prepared batches of peppy, potent daiquiris and Cosmopolitans for the group.

Soderbergh, who spent his formative years in Pittsburgh (and overlapped time a Shadyside primary school with legendary cocktail writer David Wondrich) seems to be thrilled to be both importer and brand ambassador for the spirit. "When you make a movie, it can be really dark and serious. This isn't supposed to teach you anything. It's about fun and connections,” he says.

Singani 63 currently is served a limited number of Pittsburgh bars — täkō and Casbah have it in stock. If the reaction from the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia bartenders is any indication of the spirits future in Pa., drinkers will be able to find it at many other bars shortly, too.   

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Pitt Attaches Old-School Signature to Narduzzi’s Championship Prediction

Thanks to wide receivers recognized for their blocking ability and an offensive line endearingly referred to as “knuckleheads“ –– the Panthers are one win away from making their head coach's bold pre-season prediction a reality.

Pittsburgh Restaurant News: Reduced Hours and a Chef Change

Two Oakland restaurants now have shorter hours and a chef moves from Downtown to Lawrenceville.

What Unites Us In the Wake of the Tree of Life Tragedy

We asked local faith leaders for their response to the massacre at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill –– and how we can come together and more forward as a community.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Review: Molinaro Ristorante

Ron Molinaro's Downtown restaurant offers high-end Italian dishes made with top-notch ingredients, but is it worth the price premium?

Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2018 Honorees

Pittsburgh Magazine highlights the unsung heroes of the health care field: our Excellence in Nursing honorees, chosen by our panel of distinguished judges in the field.

Nursing Shortage in Pittsburgh Calls for Creative Solutions

RetuRN to Practice entices retired nurses back Into the field.

Fine Art Meets High Fashion at the Carnegie International

With the Carnegie International as the backdrop, we feature work by local fashion designer Elaine Healey, who has been morphing from luxury womenswear to a more “non-binary” style.

The 400-Word Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

While Harry Potter diehards will find more than enough sustenance in the sequel, non-devotees may have a rough time following the action.

Pittsburgh's Tomorrow – What We Need in the Future

As the year comes to a close, we look forward to what Pittsburgh can be –– and what we'd like to see change –– in the coming years.

How to Shop Like a Pro for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh

Our guide to produce, pastries, libations and more will help your table brim with tasty treats from Pittsburgh-area businesses.

Drink Like the French on Beaujolais Nouveau Day

Why and where to celebrate on Thursday, which marks the annual release of the young wine.

‘X’ Marks the Spot for This Wedding Scavenger Hunt

She thought she was going on a simple scavenger hunt. She never dreamed it would end with a wedding.

Pittsburgh Just Dodged the Amazon Bullet

We should be relieved that the tech giant opted not to move in.

It's Official: Amazon HQ2 is Not Coming to Pittsburgh

Instead of one city, the giant retailer is splitting its second headquarters between northern Virginia and New York City.

Schoolhouse Electric Brings Hip Lighting, Coffee, to Pittsburgh

The Portland, Ore-based lighting and furnishings store, which shares space with a high-end coffeehouse from the team behind The Vandal restaurant, is located in East Liberty's Detective Building.