How to Be a Locavore Lush

Elizabeth Gilgunn of Slow Cooked Pittsburgh shows us how to drink, um, sustainably.

Photos by Leah Lizarondo

It was 1:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, and I needed a designated driver. One of the benefits (and also hazards) of my job is that indulging shamelessly is a midday necessity from time to time. This week, I had an appointment with my friend, Elizabeth Gilgunn, chef and author at Slow Cooked Pittsburgh. Gilgunn is currently giving a series of Quickie Cocktail Classes at the Pittsburgh Public Market that teaches the art of making amazing, DIY cocktails.

I was her happy guinea pig.

We drank sustainably. We drank local. And we drank well.

I was ecstatic to learn that Gilgunn uses local ingredients in her cocktails. This makes so much sense, especially since we have amazing local distillers such as Boyd & Blair and Wigle Whiskey in the mix.

“My favorite drinks are “fresh,” says Gilgunn. “No matter what bottled ingredients I’m using, I always like to add something from the garden. My absolute favorite drinks are strictly local – sourcing everything from the alcohol, to the sweeteners, to the flavors from local growers and producers.”

Locavore lush. Sure, I can live with that.

Gilgunn started to get passionate about making her own craft cocktails after careful inspection of an impulse purchase of “honey liqueur” showed that there was everything but real honey in the bottle. “For those of us that care about what we eat, we should also care about what we drink,” says Gilgunn. “If you make an effort to know what’s in your food, you should also know what’s in your drinks.”

She showed me her collection of homemade infusions, which ranged from citrus to herbal to hot horseradish. Let’s just say that your mason jars won’t just be for jams anymore after you attend one of these fun and informative happy hours! (Editor’s note: Is it possible to slur your Microsoft Words? Survey says: Yes!)

“I prefer slow cold infusions to develop depth of flavor,” explains Gilgunn. “Character is developed over time and through the use of seasonal ingredients. Each batch is unique and tailored to individual tastes.

“I take a chef’s approach to cocktailing. If a mixologist is a pastry chef, I am a cook. My drinks rely on the best of seasonal and fresh ingredients and are poured to taste. Carefully measured and developed cocktails are an important part of the field (who wants to live without cake?!) but I also like soups and stews and tend to add a pinch of this and a dab of that when I’m making them. My cocktails are no different. I really like to build multiple layers of flavor, starting with a strong base and adding complementary or contrasting flavors that add individual character and create a single flavor profile.”

She is obviously my kind of girl.

After taste-testing a bevvy of Gilgunn’s craft cocktails, I can say that I loved them all. However, the Strawberry Mint Basil Muddlecello was my favorite. And how appropriate since strawberry season is coming! Gilgunn was even kind enough to share the recipe with us. She’ll teach and taste-test more cocktails, such as Meyer Limoncello and Lemon Thymecello, in her Quickie Cocktails class at the Pittsburgh Public Market this Friday at 5:15 p.m. What a great way to kick off the weekend!

  Strawberry Mint Basil Muddlecello

Yield: 1 delicious cocktail

In a shaker:

  • 2 T macerated strawberries*
  • 1 basil
  • 1 mint

1. Muddle until combined.


  • 1 oz. mint simple syrup

2. Muddle some more!


  • 2 oz. kaffir lime vodka or lime vodka

3. Muddle some more!

4. Strain.


  • About 1-2 oz. seltzer.

*To macerate strawberries: In a bowl, place 1 pt. sliced strawberries, 2 T raw sugar, 2 large basil leaves, 2 large mint leaves. Mix together and let sit for at least an hour.

Categories: Brazen Kitchen