Our Year In Overindulgence: The Pittsburgh Whiskey And Fine Spirits Festival

Achievement: #100. Overindulge on wings, vodka, seafood, and cupcakes (but not at the same time)

Although we aren’t quite the liquor drinkers we were in college (I admit, we’ve made the full conversion to yuppies in our wine-snobbery), we couldn’t pass up a deal like the one that Groupon offered for the Pittsburgh Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival this year.

If you’re not familiar, Groupon is a great online program that gives daily discounts and coupons for local businesses, typically things like a $40 gift card for $20, or a buy-one-get-one offer. The catch is that the deals will only hold if a certain number of people sign up for them, although we have yet to take part in a deal that didn’t get enough people.

So one of the Groupons we got was for half-price tickets to the Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival at Heinz Field, which is a yearly drinking event sponsored by PA Wine and Spirits. Since I was off, and we needed to overindulge in vodka by the end of the year anyway, we decided to check it out.

And I must say, ‘overindulge’ is a bit of an understatement. Basically, you are handed a glass at the door, and you take your glass to each booth and receive free samples of each kind of liquor. They have every sort of alcohol imaginable, from whiskey and vodka to specialty liquors and absinthe and rare or expensive drinks (we got to sample Johnnie Walker Blue, the stuff that is $219 a bottle).

Probably, what we should have done was to heed the advice of a nice older gentleman in the elevator: pick a color of liquor and stick to it for the night. But instead, we tried a little of everything, which, by the end of the night, started to feel like a bit of a mess. It was still really neat, though!

The theme of the evening was speakeasies, including a mock-up with a bouncer at the door and everything. They had a live band playing music from the era, which I thought was really neat. And now, on to the photos from the night!

Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival
One of the screens around the festival.

Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival
Us with our ‘bottomless’ liquor glasses! You could rinse your glass at the different tables, but it probably would have been smarter for us to at least go in similar-drink order – have you ever had whiskey that tasted a bit like chocolate liquor? Please, thank your bartenders if you haven’t.

Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival
The ‘drummer’ vodka (Pearl is a company that makes drumsets): we tried the cucumber, which was actually pretty good, and also the pear. I liked both of them, but I’m not quite sure how they would be used in ‘real life’.

Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival
360 Double Chocolate vodka, which would probably work in those sickeningly-sweet shots and martinis that I typically can’t handle. 🙂

Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival
Then we had Van Gogh vodka, which is one of those vodkas that you save for a special occasion. Because it’s fancy. And artsy. And you have to be in an artsy mood.

Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival
This vodka goes with bleu-cheese stuffed olives, which is one of Michael’s favorite things in life.

Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival
And this was one of the highlights of the night – we finally got to try the Pittsburgh-made Boyd & Blair potato vodka! I think we would definitely buy this brand, as it was really very good (and of course, locally produced, which we love).

Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival
Three Olives had their new grape vodka, and what I loved about this booth was that they gave me a free Three Olives grape chapstick that smells exactly like those grape Huggy drinks we used to have on people’s birthdays in elementary school. Yum! (The vodka did not quite taste so good, but I’d be willing to experiment with mixed drinks.)

Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival
We tried a few of these organic Rain flavored vodkas, which were pretty tasty. Also, they gave us an awesome little mix-ology book with some unique drink recipes. (I was all about the free stuff at this place!)

Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival
And finally, though this isn’t vodka, it still made me smile. In keeping with the speakeasy theme, Jim Beam gave out these cute flyers advertising alcohol to ‘physicians and dentists who have permits to purchase under the federal prohibition act.’ Love it!

So, that was our night out at the Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival. We caught a cab back to Squirrel Hill, where we went to our favorite salad place for dinner (the Murray Ave Grille) and reviews of our night. Will we go back? Eh, probably not. Unlike a wine festival, one time at a liquor festival is kind of enough. Drinking small amounts of straight liquor of different varities for two hours was a bit overwhelming, but we sure are glad to have had the opportunity to try it once!

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