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May 25-29 Explained: Summer Scotch, Cookout Jams & Red-Eyed Vireos

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA
Tina's bar in Bloomfield is offering to-go cocktails with a summer twist.

The coronavirus shutdown began just as winter turned into spring. Since then, people have been learning new skills, taking on home projects and figuring out how to navigate life in these strange times.

Now it's nearly summer, and this week Pittsburgh Explainer met up with three professionals in their fields who have recommendations for summer cocktails, songs and spotting plants and animals in local parks. 

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
On a fence nearby, Bucklin found the Common Greenshield Lichen, a fungal species with a bright green color and almost squishy texture.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Naturalist Educator Stephen Bucklin and his colleagues have been making YouTube videos of them exploring nature and identifying different local plant and animal species. During a walk through Highland Park, Bucklin pointed out migratory birds, including the Red-Eyed Vireo and Yellow Warbler, both of which fly to North American to breed in the spring.

Near the park's Carnegie Lake, Bucklin identified the home of Bluegills, a freshwater fish.

“You can find spots at the bottom of the lake where the mother bluegill has swept away any of the dirt along the bottom and cleared a little circle to lay her eggs in,” Bucklin said. “Then she stays there and guards them.”

While exploring nature, Bucklin said it's important to slow down and be patient. 

“If you find something interesting or notice something, just [pause] to observe the details of it and [develop] that curiosity.”

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy's Stephen Bucklin stands in Highland Park on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

At Tina's bar in Bloomfield, owner and bartender Sarah Shaffer mixed several of her favorite cocktails, including the Jabroni, a new take on a classic drink. The cocktail is a frozen version of a Negroni. At Tina's, the Jabroni has another nickname.

"We also call them 'lushies' here," Shaffer said.

When creating a summer cocktail, Shaffer said, it's important to find the balance between the spirit, a syrup and a citrus.

"[That is] going to make a much lighter cocktail build," she said. One example is the Penicillin, a drink crafted originally by New York City bartender Sam Ross. It includes scotch, honey ginger syrup and citrus and creates a balanced taste.

Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Graffiti in Pittsburgh's Garfield neighborhood.

DJ Selecta, who hosts Grand Groove Radio on 91.3 WYEP, said it's important to have a fun soundtrack to accompany summertime activities. 

"A summer jam, to me, evokes the sun and conjures up feelings of serenity and just peacefulness," Selecta said. "It's both tempo and instrumentation."

Selecta's recommendations:

Pittsburgh Explainer is hosted by Liz Reid and produced by Katie Blackley. New episodes come out every Friday. Subscribe on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher and Spotify.

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer of Pittsburgh Explainer and our Good Question! series. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community.
Liz Reid oversees newsroom operations at WESA. She began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor. You can reach her at