Kingfly Spirits, a distillery in the Strip District, takes flight
Pittsburgh’s newest craft distillery pays homage to the monarch butterfly in the form of a signature logo.
“The monarch butterfly is the paramount perfect image of transformation,” said Kingfly co-owner Blake Ragghianti. “And what we are doing here is about transformation on every level from the spirits we make to the design of the distillery.”
Located in the Strip District, Kingfly opened its doors on Feb. 2.
Ragghianti traveled around the world to learn how to fashion spirits. He’s wanted to open a place like this for years. He and business partner Mark Willson found the space nearly three years ago. It was once a horse stable. They decided to keep some of the history of the place which included using some of the recycled wood for beer taps.
The finish on the bar and the stools and tables were crafted by John Walter, who owns Pittsburgh-based Iron Eden and runs Magarac Gallery on Liberty Ave., where he showcases some of his work, out of reclaimed lumber from various Pittsburgh buildings.
“Kingfly Spirits is a cool experience,” Walter said. “There is so much history in that space. It is going to take off once people get in there and the word gets out.”
Patrons can enjoy tastings of vodka, rum, bourbon and limoncello for $3 to $8.
Cocktails are $9 such as a highball using vodka, white rum, spiced rum, bourbon or limoncello. They also serve classic drinks like an old-fashioned, daiquiri, martini, corn ‘n oil, painkiller and dark & stormy.
Bottles are for sale along with wine and other Pennsylvania spirits.
“This has been the sleepy part of the Strip District but there are a lot of things happening here,” Willson said. “Since we’ve been here, so many other things have been popping up. Our goal is to be multi dimensional – to take an industrial space and turn it into an event space, a bar, a distillery and a place to listen to good music.”
“This is such a unique model,” Ragghianti said. “I can be the bartender who made the spirit you are drinking. It’s about creating a visual, sensual experience. I feel like we are making a new path here.”
Ragghianti, who does most of the distilling, said each element is added individually so it can be customized to taste. Everything is made in house from the rough ingredients to the bottling phase.
He also only makes small batches. Feedback from customers is welcomed. The setup involves an open space where guests can see the still which makes the alcohol from their bar stool. There is a back area of lounge seating perfect for listening to jazz on Thursday nights. Or they can rent the space, which includes a loft, for a private event or party.
“We wanted to create a coffee shop vibe at night with a little sexy edge and some jazz music and a relaxed atmosphere,” Willson said. “What we are doing is a labor of love. We kept some of the old and incorporated some of the new. We have really paid attention to detail.”
On Thursday, John “Ubie” Ubinger from Highland Park was in attendance for jazz night. He said the fact there were so many people there that evening is because of Ragghianti and Willson and their connection to music and making a high end quality product.
“Blake has traveled the world extensively to learn how to make spirits,” said Ubinger, who prefers an old fashioned or dark & stormy. “I have watched this extreme transformation from the beginning, and it’s quite impressive. You can genuinely see their passion for this venture. They have educated themselves on this business and having the equipment in the middle of the establishment is perfect. That still is a piece of art.”
If you go:
Kingfly Spirits is located at 2613 Smallman St. in the Strip District
Hours are 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and Friday
Thursdays are jazz nights
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday
Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday
Details: 412-392-8928 or kingflyspirits.com
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .