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New Pittsburgh food and drink

‘Sandlot’-themed cocktail menu at Pittsburgh’s Smallman Galley serves up summer for-ev-er

“Follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong” … especially when it leads you to these cocktails.

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Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline
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For kids who grew up in the ’90s, a Friday night outing to the local VHS rental store was a big deal, and there’s one beloved blockbuster video that still stirs up nostalgia 24 years later: The Sandlot.

Drawing on that ’90s sentimentality, the bar at Smallman Galley is offering a Sandlot-themed cocktail menu this summer. On the menu: “The Great Spambino,” “L7 Weenie” and “Vincent Drug Store,” among other punny drinks.

The menu itself is printed on an old-school white plastic VHS jacket. The front image is designed to look like the movie cover but with Smallman Galley’s bartenders and their family in the photo instead of the Sandlot crew. Subbing in for “The Beast” is one of the bartender’s dogs — a Boston Terrier named Lizzy who’s just a bit tinier than the film’s English Mastiff.

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“I think everyone from our generation had a sentimental attachment to it,” said Tim Garso, beverage director at Smallman Galley. Located in the Strip District and set up in a dining hall style, Smallman Galley is a restaurant incubator, which hosts four chefs before they set out on their own.

The bar, always a fixture of the venue, changes its menu in a thematic way, rather than a seasonal way, Garso said. It has presented themed menus drawing cocktail inspiration from hip-hop to Pittsburgh Pirates puns to a greatest hits round-up (its menu was printed on vinyl record sleeves) to a Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack (printed on a jewel CD case).

“I think people are starting to get the message that the weird-looking thing on the bar is the menu,” Garso said.

Even for customers who haven’t seen The Sandlot, he said, there’s still a connection to the tactile, sensory experience of cracking open a VHS tape.

Garso bought the VHS cases for $1 each at Goodwill — a perplexing purchase to the store’s staff who asked “what are you going to do with all these?” Garso’s wife, Danielle Garso, designed the case with great attention to detail, even including a fake movie rating “D for Delicious Drinks: Contains puns, canned meat and nostalgia FOR – EV – ER.”

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Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Among the menu’s highlights are the rum-heavy “Hercules,” which can be super-sized as “The Beast” in a glass fit for four. “Pickle!” consists of a can of Genny Cream Ale served with a pickle-flavored Jello shot.

“We always try to do a boilermaker of some sort on the menu,” Garso said. “We thought, ‘You know maybe Pittsburgh needs more pickle-flavored jello shots.’ It’s green and the can of Genny cream ale is also green. We’re very lucky that we have owners here that when we say, ‘We’re doing a pickle-flavored Jello shot,’ they trust us enough that it’ll work out.”

The most popular beverage also bears the longest name: “You play ball like a girl … Hey! It’s 2017 neither sports nor drinks are gendered (but this drink is hella pink).”

Garso describes it as the “perfect summer crusher.”

“We have a shared ethos behind this bar,” he said, “which is to make as many pink drinks as possible and to trick bros into drinking pink drinks.”

But whether you’re into pink drinks or not, it’s evident that the bar staff have worked together diligently to construct the menu.

“I really think you can really feel the personality,” Garso said. “You might even be able to guess which drinks are from each bartender if you’re a regular here.”

For Garso in particular, The Sandlot is special.

“The first time I remember watching it was on a family vacation to Utah,” he said. “I remember my Aunts and Uncles watching it with us and being like, ‘that looks like here.’ ” Parts of the movie are filmed in Utah, where Garso visited family recently and drove by the movie’s iconic drugstore and swimming pool.

“It’s part of our family trips out here,” he said. “As I got older and had my own children, [I] kind of rediscovered the movie.”

These Sandlot-inspired drinks will be on tap through summer:

  • PF Flyers (during July, $1 from every PR Flyers cocktail will be donated to Pittsburgh RBI, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities)
  • The Great Spambino
  • Cannonball!
  • L7 Weenie
  • This Magic Moment
  • Wendy Peppercorn
  • You Play Ball Like A Girl…Hey! It’s 2017, neither sports nor drinks are gendered (but this drink is hella pink)
  • Legends Never Die
  • Vincent Drug Store
  • Hercules (or supersize it as “The Beast”)
  • Pickle!