Holiday Lupe Chavez
The History of the Red Velvet Swing
by Black Monday

LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) recently commissioned one of Pittsburgh's finest bartenders to create a drink in honor of a famous Pittsburgh Woman. This is the first cocktail commissioned by LUPEC and, as part of our commitment to Women's History, we intend to commission one woman-honorary cocktail each year.

We had a difficult choice when it came to picking the honorette. Pittsburgh has been the home of many interesting ladies. While there were some easy choices (Gertrude Stein, Lillian Russell) LUPEC wanted to choose a woman who was either wrongly anonymous or too notorious for the normal Women's History treatment. Some of the finalists were:

Stephanie Kwolek: She invented Kevlar!
Perle Mesta: Well, maybe she's well known but, like LUPEC, she was the Hostess with the Mostess
Mrs. Soffel: Turn of the Century warden's wife who sprung the Biddle Boys from jail and survived the shootout that ensued
Doris Mercer: Daughter of a police officer who married S.S. Kresge (the K of K-Mart) and the cousin of the Shah of Persia. Chorus girl and opera singer who divorced all of her husbands, kept the jewel the Persian Royal Family "gave" her, and was eventually swindled out of everything by a Texas Playboy

In the end, we chose notoriety over anonymity. The LUPEC Honoree for 2001: Evelyn Nesbit.

Choosing our honoree was difficult but choosing the right bartender was not. Lava Lounge has always been a preferred LUPEC hangout, largely due to the skill and joie de vivre of bartender, Don Bistarkey. Don accepted our challenge and, armed with info about Ms. Nesbit, he went to work. In short time, he had come up with not just one cocktail but several, all based on details from Ms. Nesbit's life. We had originally asked Don to come up with a cocktail called the Red Velvet Swing. He did so and then raised the bar by adding The Golden Kimono.

LUPEC sent out invitations to the Cocktail Debut, came early to set up, and nervously fussed over snacks and napkins while we waited to try the new cocktails. Would they be good enough? Would they do the tragic/sexy/courageous Ms. Nesbit justice?

We were fools to doubt.

Don made us the first official Red Velvet Swings, explaining the alchemical symbolism behind each ingredient:
Champagne: The base is champagne because she said Stanford White gave her champagne "with something in it"
Pomegranate Molasses: This makes the drink both red and velvety--plus it qualifies as the "something"
One Cherry: The symbolism here is pretty obvious
One Pomegranate seed: Don didn't say, but we like to think it's a reference to not only the Molasses but to another mythical old man/young girl scenario: Hades and Persephone. You know the story…
And, the secret, last minute ingredient: Rosewater: to sweeten the tartness with the added bonus of being very Victorian.

We admired, we sniffed, we sipped--and it was PERFECT. Exact, beautiful, original and PERFECT. Don GOT IT. Don GAVE IT BACK.

The Golden Kimono refers to the kimono Stanford White had Evelyn wear when he photographed her. This too was an excellent drink. With a base of ginger beer, it manages to be both spicy and refreshing.

The crowd that showed was smaller than we had hoped for, but quality beats quantity any day. Planned Parenthood graced us with their mighty presence at a table in the front! Monday's boss showed up! TK the beer drinker had 2 Red Velvet Swings! Brandy's Gal Posse held Court! And Don seemed happy with the crowd.

Will LUPEC invade other bars with new drinks and endangered cocktails? Is anyone safe?

We hope so and we hope not.

Many thanks again to Don "Perfect Manhattan" Bistarkey, Lava Lounge, and Planned Parenthood of Pittsburgh.
Special thanks to LUPEC's Men's Auxiliary, The Screwdrivers.

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