Smack dab in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh, Butcher and the Rye is serving up some of the best food Steel City has to offer. Its two-time James Beard Semifinalist bar program (and its mind-boggling wall of nearly 700 whiskeys) is just as outstanding. We chatted with Kimber Weissert, the restaurant's Beverage Director, about her bartending philosophy, her drinking habits, and Pittsburgh's burgeoning cocktail scene. She'll also share her recipe for the dangerously delicious Pomelo en Fuego.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF…
How long have you been bartending?
I have been at Butcher and the Rye for a bit over a year and a half, and I have been bartending a little over 10 years.
What first got you Behind the Bar?
I was working in Cleveland, Ohio, as a talent buyer for a concert venue called Peabody’s. I’d always been interested in learning to bartend and told them I would love to help out sometime. My first night behind the bar happened quickly. About an hour before a sold out show, they taught me to make a Long Island, a Lake Erie (house shot), and a Washington Apple…and told me good luck. It was an insane night that somehow made me fall in love with the bar business. I’ve come a long way since then.
Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
Keep your eyes and ears open. Learn from your fellow bartenders, and read! If you want to be a career bartender, continued learning is key. I learned so much on the job from other bartenders I worked with over the years, and some of them truly helped make me the bartender I am today.
What's your favorite drink made by someone else?
This is such a hard one! I’ll have to say a well-made Manhattan is one of my favorite drinks to get from a fellow bartender. It shows me their chops!
Favorite drink that you make?
I don’t have a favorite drink to make. I like making any drink that is going to make someone smile and enjoy.
Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
No guilty pleasures…I drink what I drink with no shame. Give me a PBR and a shot of Old Grand-Dad and I am a happy woman.
If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Whiskey – because there are so many options!
What’s your favorite part about working at Butcher and the Rye?
My favorite thing about working at Butcher and the Rye is my coworkers – they kick ass, plain and simple. We work hard, we have fun, we get mad at each other, but at the end of the night these are the people I see more than my family…and really are my second family. I love them!
Where do you like to stop in for a drink?
One of my favorite places to go to is Hidden Harbor. I am a sucker for an awesome Tiki drink, and they do it so well!
What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture in Pittsburgh?
I think Pittsburgh has an amazing cocktail culture. There are many great mainstay bars and many more opening. We have great talent and an awesome, supportive community. We have a lot of creative bartenders that are starting to get some recognition in the cocktail world and I think you’re going to hear a lot more about the cocktail scene here in Pittsburgh over the next few years.
Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
The golden rule for bartenders is to treat every guest like they are a guest in your home.
My philosophy behind the bar is simple. Make it fun! Guests should always feel welcome and never intimidated at the bar. When you work in front of a wall of almost 700 whiskies, which I do, the choices in front of someone new can be overwhelming. My goal is to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable to order what they enjoy, whether it be an awesome whiskey, a cosmo, or maybe even a Pomelo En Fuego. A night out for drinks should be fun!
What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
A shot of the Cold Brew Coffee moonshine all by itself…it’s so good!
Pomelo En Fuego
1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
½ oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
½ oz. Agave
¾ oz. Lime Juice
4 dashes Bittermen’s Hellfire Shrub
1 inch piece of cucumber cut into smaller pieces to muddle
Add agave, lime, and cucumber to shaker. Muddle Cucumber. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and double strain into prepared rocks glass with a ribbon of cucumber spiraled along inside of glass and ice. Garnish with pickled habanero.
Recipe by Kimber Weissert.
All photos by Joey Wharton.
Need more cocktail inspo?
Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.
We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.
Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.
From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.
Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.