They say romance is dead and as a cynic, I’ve often agreed. However, being equal parts hopeless romantic, I’ve secretly longed to prove them wrong. We’re still out here; the lovers, the dreamers, and me. Some of us are perhaps jaded after several failed relationships. Some are underwhelmed by the sometimes shallow, disingenuous nature of online dating. I don’t want to brag, but I once swiped left faster than an overworked Aldi cashier. Many of us are seeking a real connection, something to believe in again. And no, I don’t mean trauma bonding.
As I entered 816 Main Street, in Sharpsburg, I could feel my cynicism being squelched by the charm awaiting me. Elegant and cozy, retro and swanky; the past and present collide inside Love, Katie Distilling. White silk roses adorn a black wall that acts as a backsplash across from the intimate bar where seasonal and craft cocktails are created. Old episodes of I Love Lucy, sans sound, are projected onto the wall nearest the entrance. Dimmed lights reflect off of black-and-white photos of celebrities that hang throughout the lounge as old-timey music plays in the background. I was feeling all the modern-day speakeasy vibes.
Top that off with a delicious, on-the-house caramel apple whiskey cocktail, and… it was love. For me, at least. And here’s what I discovered. The romance is intentional. Katie Sirianni, 37, Fox Chapel native and self-proclaimed, “old soul Xennial” opened Love, Katie Distilling as an homage to love; all love, and especially the love for her girlfriend, Jen Procacina. “It’s my love letter to Jen,” said Sirianni.
I couldn’t even get my last girlfriend to water my plants when I was away, but that’s cool. I also find it quite impressive that Katie’s grand romantic gesture didn’t include a U-Haul. Well done, Katie. No pressure on you though, Jen. All jokes aside, I found this all to be so beautiful; the space, the intention, the people. It may be Katie’s love letter to Jen, but it also felt like the universe was sending me my very own love note.
You’ll experience your own love story when you visit Love, Katie Distilling, and that was also intentional. There’s a love letter on the back of every bottle. “I want everybody to be able to walk in here and share this space as their love letter to a loved one. To their mother, daughter, friend, or romantic partner. It’s about love, and I want to take it back to a time that was more simple. Nothing should be complex about love,” said Katie.
Love, Katie Distilling is the first LGBTQ-owned distillery in Pennsylvania and Katie Sirianni wants everyone to feel welcome in her space. The business has only been open a few weeks but had a soft launch on June 28, 2023, in honor of International Pride Day.
Before becoming the first lesbian-owned distillery in Pennsylvania, Katie worked in healthcare for a decade. She then went on to open SIPS Mobile Bar Co. where she refurbished and turned old horse trailers into decorative bars on wheels. She started the company with a business partner and later took over with the help of her cousin, Brian Zalewski. Zalewski now manages Love, Katie and serves as the house mixologist. Heather Klug, whom Sirianni affectionately refers to as “Mama Heather” spoke highly of her “bonus daughter, Katie” and her ability to start a business from the ground up. “She would find these trailers and turn them into mobile bars by doing the electrical work, the plumbing, welding, etc. She did it all.”
Mama Heather was the taste-tester sampling new drinks during my visit, and I’d presume that is due to her ability to give feedback ‘straight-up’.
Sirianni said she learned to distill out of her friend Kenyan Hicks’ distillery, Noire Expedition in Lawrenceville, where she built the tasting room and spent time during the off-season months at SIPS.
I assumed Katie was good with her hands because she’s a lesbian, but she informed me that was only part of the reason. “My dad is a handy guy and he had me using power tools from as far back as I can remember. I was always helping him. I’ve been building things since I was little.” It seems dad is now returning the favor as he, along with cousin Brian and Katie, did all of the renovations at Love, Katie. But Katie assures me the decor is all her. She is thrilled to own a business so close to where she grew up.
Love, Katie is currently featuring Noire Expedition gin, Wigle Whiskey, and Lucky Sign Spirits along with a lot of great beer made in Pennsylvania. There are also non-alcoholic beers and mocktails available per request. Cocktail flights are available for those who can’t be held to one choice, and according to Sirianni, “set us apart from other places.” In the spirit of supporting local businesses, they’ve partnered with Yosteria, an Italian restaurant in Sharpsburg. Customers can order from the menu via a QR code and have food delivered to the distillery.
The distillery is also available to host private events such as the bridal shower for Daisy Jade, host/producer of Fan N’ATion and PTL. Happy hours, open mics, comedy shows as well as burlesque and drag shows are also on the menu of this soon-to-be-favorite Sharpsburg hangout.
Come grab a loveseat and experience firsthand the magic of Love, Katie Distilling. XO