TABLE Magazine’s First Pittsburgh Cocktail Shake-Off

What happens when 12 teams of mixologists have an hour to create a cocktail out of a limited pantry of ingredients and a surprise liquor? TABLE Magazine’s Cocktail Shake-Off was the answer!

A Cocktail-Lover’s Paradise

This first-time event brought together a number of Pittsburgh restaurants and establishments to gift the community an evening of good spirits, excellent mixologist skills, and plenty of fun. The evening started off with just the bartender teams arrayed against the Pittsburgh skyline as seen from the wide windows of Vision on Fifteenth. Each team was given a surprise liquor which must be the base of the cocktail, but the rest of the recipe was up to them. To keep it local, the spirits were from distillers like Liberty Pole Spirits and Wigle Whiskey.

Three men in white vests and ties cross their arms in a line and smile at the camera.
Mack Elliff, Badr El Khessassi, and Luis Mantilla, from the Nemacolin mixology team.

What happened at Shake-Off?

An hour before opening the doors, TABLE Magazine Publisher Justin Matase released the teams in Guy’s Grocery Games-style to shop the pantry for products such as Boba Pops Cocktail Caviar and basics like sugars, herbs, and citrus fruits.

In the time between shopping the pantry and opening the doors to attendees, each team took to their stations with laser-focus. What ensued was the creation of 12 batch cocktails using unique flavor combinations ready for judging by a panel of professional judges and all of the public who attended the event.

A woman with dark hair and lipstick tastes a cocktail with a long stirring spoon.
Lisa Considine from Lo Bar Cocktail Services tastes their Calabrian Martini cocktail.

After receiving a commemorative TABLE Magazine sample glass and taste-testing all the cocktails, professional judges as well as hundreds of tasters cast their votes for both the Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice Awards.

A person in a patterned dress shirt pours an orange soda into a pot.
Eva Kobylar from the Unspeakable Team pours Red Ribbon Strawberry Cream Soda.

Besides the delicious cocktails, attendees also got to enjoy small bites from Café Momentum, take to the dance floor, speak with Pittsburgh businesses like Farm to Table Western PA, and connect with other cocktail lovers in the city.

Visit each Pittsburgh bar on this list (or make their Shake-Off cocktail at home) to form your own conclusions about which team should take home the top prize at the next Cocktail Shake-Off. Breaking news: there will be another!

A group of mixologists in a green lit room at TABLE Magazine's cocktail shakeoff
From left to right: The Warren Team, Con Alma Team, Nemacolin Team, and Lo Bar Team.

The Contestants

The Winners

A cocktail put together by the team at The Warren

First Place – Judge’s Choice: The Point of No Return

Recipe by Erik Tennyson, Michael Marts, and Ciana Cassi of The Warren Bar & Burrow

Taste buds were at full attention with notes of basil, lime, and spicy ginger melding together Crooked Creek Distillery Signature Rye, vermouth, bitters, and a pop of Boba Pops Raspberry boba. The judges were wild for it and gave it number-one status.

A cocktail put together by the team at Nemacolin

First Place People’s Choice: Sunny Days Ahead

Recipe by Badr El Khessassi, Luis Mantilla, and Mack Elliff – Nemacolin

What happens when you blend timeless sophistication with a delightful twist? A praiseworthy cocktail masterpiece! Team Nemacolin won over the crowd with their blend of Wigle Pennsylvania Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Martini Rosso, amaretto, lemon-orange oleo syrup, Angostura and orange bitters, and a Valencia orange spritz topper.

A clear cocktail in a martini glass

Second Place – Judge’s Choice: The Calabrian Martini

Recipe by Lisa Considine and Aubrey Halliburton of Lo Bar Cocktail Services

Sometimes simplicity cuts through the noise like a sharp blade. The clarity of flavor here came from Ridge Runner Gin, rosemary- and lemon-infused dry vermouth, bergamot liqueur, and charred lemon peel garnish. Stunning and sippable.

Two pink cocktails on a black background, by Ineffable Ca Phe's team

Second Place – People’s Choice: Pink Whale 

Recipe by Eva Kobylar and Bri Gartley of Unspeakable at Ineffable Ca Phé

Originality and a freewheeling sense of adventure harmonized a wide range of flavors. Kingfly White Rum, Amaro 05, Red Ribbon Strawberry Cream Soda, as well as lime, coconut cream, bitters, orange, and basil, took flight and touched the sun.

A yellow cocktail in a coupé glass with an orange slice in it on a black background

Third Place – Judge’s Choice: Apples to Oranges

Recipe by Anthony Scaramacho, Laticia Ward, and James Schillinger of Monterey Bay Fish Grotto

Boyd & Blair vodka is the base. Melannurca apple liqueur and Red Ribbon Orange Soda are the theme. The combo is oh-so-delicious.

Third Place – Judge’s Choice Tie: Scarlet Macaw 

Recipe by Jesse Marino, Jacob Hunt, Jamelia Gramz of Omni William Penn Speakeasy

From a negroni-like base of Lucky Sign Gin, Campari, and amaro, with additions of rosemary-orange simple syrup, lime juice, apple brandy and bitters, a bright and happy sip is born.

Judge’s and People’s Choices: The Good Life 

Recipe by Hannah McKee, Dillon Hvizdash, Annabelle Deufel of Con Alma

Big Springs Rye, house-made ginger peach reduction, notes of lemon and licorice, and a dash of Peychaud’s Bitters, will have you living the good life on East Street. With your feet up.

Story by Emma Riva & Kylie Thomas / Event Photography by Laura Petrilla / Cocktail Photography by Dave Bryce

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