For many, ’tis the season of seemingly endless celebrations among those sporting turtlenecks and tweeds while hoisting a spirited beverage or two. And although most holiday partygoers participate in mainly mundane evenings, just how many merrymakers boast of attending whiskey-infused gatherings engendering social restoration?
On Dec. 22, the answer was 72. That’s how many turned out for Repair the World (RTW) Pittsburgh’s 2016 Chanukah Party. It certainly helped that liquor, food and fun were elements of the function, but more so than the promise of live holiday music offsetting casual conversations, the Steel City soirée was driven by a desire to deliver good (or goods).
While teaming with Wigle Whiskey, a craft whiskey distillery located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, RTW created an opportunity to support nonprofit organizations that provide afterschool and evening activities for children, said its executive director, Zack Block.
Proceeds from the sale of Wigle bottles and cocktails at the RTW Chanukah party will go toward school supplies for underserved children, Block told a roomful of supporters at RTW’s offices in East Liberty.
Proceeds of $5 from every bottle and $1 from every drink sold were designated towards assisting local groups including Assemble, Circles East Liberty, Higher Achievement and Homewood Children’s Village.
“This is a great way to get people involved in service and also to have fun at a Chanukah party and enjoy Wigle spirits,” said Lydia Bestul, a RTW fellow.
David Chudnow, who with his wife Heather traveled to East Liberty for the hooch-laden happening, described the evening as a “nice relaxing social event,” adding that “all of the beverages were very creative.”
The welcome cocktail, which each participant received as part of the $25 entrance fee, was titled “The Rosemary Gimlet” and featured Wigle ginever, rosemary simple syrup, lime, seltzer and Wigle rosemary lavender bitters (recipe below).
Other seasonally and regionally themed drinks for purchase included: “The Favorite Flannel,” which consisted of Wigle wheat whiskey, Egyptian licorice tea, sassafras simple syrup and lemon juice, and “The Rye Old Fashioned,” which contained Wigle Monongahela rye whiskey and demerara sugar.
The beverage menu was based on Wigle’s holiday season offerings, said Bestul, who as part of her RTW fellowship helped assemble the alcohol-imbued affair.
“This seems a bit unexpected … but partnering with Repair the World makes a lot of sense,” Jill Steiner announced prior to a communal toast.
Both organizations are committed to “civic-mindedness and bringing people together,” she said.
“It’s time now for everyone to act on those shared values,” echoed Block, who encouraged listeners to “come out with us, serve with us.”
Block’s efforts have “made a big difference in the three or four years he’s been here,” said Skip Grinberg, RTW’s advisory council chair.
Through Block, RTW has been able to “reach out to a community that other organizations can’t hit,” added Grinberg.
Part of what the group sought to accomplish during the evening was “highlighting our good partnership with Wigle,” said Block. While RTW and Wigle are exploring future partnerships, the current focus is on the school supply drive, which will last until Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The goal is to “spread the word to both audiences,” echoed Steiner.
With fear of diluting the evening’s objective through oversaturated speeches, Bestul raised her glass and offered a classic salute: “The only toast that feels appropriate is one word, L’chaim.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.