A Boozy Q&A With 5 PA Distilleries

Catch up with a few cocktail connoisseurs before attending the Pittsburgh Wine & Spirits Festival.
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With the 2nd Annual Pittsburgh Wine & Spirits Festival just a few days away, we asked five PA distilleries to give us a little insight into the current trends in the spirits and cocktail world. Read on to see what they had to say, and what they’re looking forward to at Saturday’s event.

  • Steph Ridgway, Ambassador, Pennsylvania-Made Spirits at Charles Jacquin et Cie
  • Herman C. Mihalich, Founder and Distiller, Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey and Mountain Laurel Spirits
  • Nicholas Wilcox, Event Manager, Boyd & Blair, Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries
  • Robert Irvine, Chef, Author, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist & Owner, Irvine’s Spirits
  • Harmon Rozycki, Distillery Manager, KelRay Industries

What is your favorite spirit right now?
I am enjoying our Dad’s Hat Bottled in Bond Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey – we look for unique barrels to blend together for our Bottled in Bond releases, so they are always fun and delicious. —Herman C. Mihalich

My favorite spirit right now has to be the Boyd & Blair Blood Orange Cosmo. It has been our bestseller for over a year. —Nicholas Wilcox

I make both a vodka and a gin under my Irvine’s Spirits label, so naturally those are my two favorite spirits! But it depends what kind of mood I’m in when deciding between the two. Some occasions call for a refreshing gin and tonic, and other times I crave a nice cold vodka martini. —Robert Irvine

With summer coming soon, we are loving refreshing drinks with a twist. We are looking forward to bourbon smashes, gin fizzes and vodka frescas. -HR

What should we be drinking this spring?
Spritzers! They’re light, refreshing and “sessionable.” —Steph Ridgway

This spring, stay tuned for a Pride-themed cocktail from Boyd & Blair, more details to come! —NW

Whiskey sours – made the right way with rye whiskey, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little simple syrup – easy and delicious. —HM

I’m very big on the espresso martini right now. It’s such a delicious cocktail, combining two of my favorite things, espresso and Irvine’s Vodka!  —RI

You should be adding Boba Pops to your favorite cocktail! These pearls of popping, fruit-flavored liqueur give hosts, bartenders, home mixologists, and everyone in between an easy way to create crowd-pleasing beverages. You have to try it to experience the pop and gushing flavor, with a hint of sweetness and boozy endnotes. -HR

What’s the secret to a great cocktail?
The secret to a great cocktail is balance. No one flavor or component should overpower the other. Cocktails, like food, are the perfect blend of every ingredient. They meld to create an entirely new flavor sensation. —SR

Fresh ingredients. Just like preparing food, always start with high-quality, fresh ingredients in your cocktail. —RI

How do you feel about canned or ready-to-drink cocktails?
RTD’s, or ready-to-drink cocktails answer a consumer need that we didn’t realize existed. Typically, the consumer who enjoys a great cocktail at their favorite watering hole feels really good about being able to enjoy something just as good in the comfort of their own home. —SR

Ready to drink cocktails are the future. —NW

What do you enjoy most about the Pittsburgh Wine & Spirits Festival?
Meeting folks who enjoy our whiskey and give us feedback on what we are doing (right and wrong). —HM

First and foremost, I enjoy hanging out with attendees! Whether it’s introducing a new consumer to my brands or sharing a sip with someone who’s familiar, I relish that moment with them! —SR

It’s so inspiring to be here among so many talented winemakers and distillers and friends. I love meeting new people and tasting new wines and spirits, and I feel so at home here in Pittsburgh. Not only do I distill and bottle Irvine’s Spirits in Pennsylvania, also my Fit Crunch protein bars are made here in Pittsburgh, too.—RI

The Pittsburgh Wine & Spirits Festival begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, at the Event Center at Rivers Casino. A limited number of tickets are still available and can be purchased online.

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