Holiday sweets and spirits

Wigle’s holiday spirit options go beyond whiskey

The third of 10 must-try holiday sweets and spirits in Pittsburgh.

family-shot
Courtesy Wigle Whiskey
Sarah Anne Hughes

When you think Wigle, you probably think whiskey.

The distillery, the first to open in Pittsburgh post-Prohibition, made a name for itself with its flagship rye whiskeys. That kind of spirit has deep roots in this part of the state.

As Wigle explains on its website, “The German immigrants were familiar with Rye grain and the Scottish immigrants knew how to distill, so it made for a natural marriage.”

The distillery gets its name from Phillip Wigle, a distiller who helped fight the Whiskey Rebellion. Spoiler: He and his compatriots lost, and Wigle was sentenced to hang. (Hence the noose in Wigle’s logo.) He was pardoned by George Washington.

By the early 19th century, the city had become known for spicy Monongahela rye. Today, Wigle makes that and its other products using local ingredients from farms that are certified organic or working on getting that certification. The distillery is the largest consumer of organic grain in the state, Jill Steiner, director of events and public relations, said during a recent visit to Wigle’s Strip District facility.

While whiskey may be the marquee product, Wigle’s holiday offerings this year show the range and diversity of spirits that the distillery is producing.

Tonight, Wigle will celebrate the release of two of them, the Demeter Landlocked and Northern Exposure Whiskey, at its Chrismukkah party. Tickets are $10.

Holiday spirit spirits

First, the bad news. One of the holiday releases, a peach brandy, is already sold out. But there are still six diverse options available for sale. Here’s a rundown.

Quaker Strength$58, 375 ml and 750 ml bottles, 92 proof (46% ABV). This oat malt whiskey was inspired by oatmeal stout beers. It’s something a Scotch drinker will enjoy.

Bottled in Bond Deep Cut Rye Whiskey, $75, 750 ml bottles, 100 proof (50% ABV). Why the higher price tag? This is a very special whiskey. Steiner wouldn’t go as far to say it’s sacrilege to mix this spirit with something else — but she highly recommends drinking it neat or with a splash of water.

Foraged Pommeau, $50, 375 ml bottles, 48.74 proof (24.37% ABV). This pommeau is a collaboration between Wigle and 412 Food Rescue, whose volunteers foraged the crab apples. Like the crab apples themselves, this spirit has a pleasant bitterness.

Fatto A Mano Grappa, $40, 375 ml bottles, 80 proof (40% ABV). The spirit is made from grape pomace (what’s left when you squeeze the fruit to make wine) from 6 Mile Cellars Niagara in Erie.

Northern Exposure, $34, 375 ml and 750 ml bottles, 92 proof (46% ABV). Three words: maple syrup barrels. This multi-grain whiskey was finished off in those for several months. If it was OK to drink whiskey for breakfast, this would be a solid choice.

Demeter, $34, 375 ml bottles, 83.9 proof (41.95% ABV). This may be the best option for the local whiskey lover in your life. The honey in this spirit is local, it was aged in an East End Brewing Co. barrel and the bottle artwork was done by Pittsburgh’s Sara Eve Rivera.

Nothing says Christmas like cocktails

Have you ever made a cocktail with grappa? Perhaps it’s better to ask — have you ever had grappa? Grappa was originally consumed “to provide warmth during chilly winters in Northern Italy,” L’Italo-Americano explains. Today, it’s a perfect ingredient for a holiday cocktail, Steiner said. Here are two recipes from Wigle:

Grappa Old Fashioned

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Wigle Fatto A Mano Grappa
  • 1 ounce Wigle Monongahela Rye
  • 3 dashes Pomander Orange Bitters
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 dash soda water

Directions

  1. Muddle bitters and sugar in mixing glass.
  2. Add a dash of soda water.
  3. Add Grappa and Rye.
  4. Stir 10 times.
  5. Add ice.
  6. Stir 20 times.
  7. Strain over ice.
  8. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

Basil MoFato

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Wigle Fatto A Mano Grappa
  • 4 basil leaves
  • .5 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 lime squeezed
  • 1 ounce agave nectar

Directions

  1. Muddle 3 basil leaves in a mixing glass.
  2. Add all other ingredients to mixing glass with ice.
  3. Shake vigorously.
  4. Strain over ice.
  5. Top with soda water.
  6. Garnish with fourth basil leaf.