Philadelphia hasn’t always been a cocktail town, thanks to unusually strict alcohol laws (some of which are loosening up). But that doesn’t mean those in search of noteworthy mixed drinks are out of luck. The city’s cocktail scene spans speakeasy-style bars, hit restaurants paying as much attention to the drinks as the food, and even a few dives that can shake up something well worth going out of the way for. Here’s a map of 15 places that do cocktails better than anyone else.Read More
15 Intriguing Philly Cocktail Bars
Where to drink when you’re craving something creative
1. Friday Saturday Sunday
One of the top food and drink Instagrammers in town, Paul MacDonald mixes up tempting cocktails poured into elegant glassware from Friday Saturday Sunday’s street-level bar (the dining room is upstairs). MacDonald regularly rotates the cocktail list and earned attention for using the math-based Fibonacci sequence to perfectly balance drinks.
2. 1 Tippling Place
Rittenhouse’s 1 Tippling Place has a parlor vibe going on, with a mix of cushiony chairs and mismatched tables filling the narrow space. Settle in and order a flawless old fashioned.
3. The Ranstead Room
Stephen Starr’s red-walled speakeasy-esque bar tucked into the alley street (Ranstead) behind his Mexican eatery El Rey is lit almost solely by candlelight. The sexy space is a perfect spot for a fancy cocktail and the bartenders here are top-notch.
4. V Street
V Street draws its food and drink inspiration from ingredients found in far-flung places and seamlessly blends them together into excellent concoctions. The hip Rittenhouse bar, from the team behind Vedge, also happens to be vegan.
5. The Franklin
The subterranean Franklin Bar, a.k.a. Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., doesn’t let in too many people at once, so patrons never feel overcrowded while sipping intricate cocktails. If there’s a seat open at the small bar, snag it and watch the expert bartenders in action.
With a location right on Rittenhouse Square, the people-watching doesn’t get any better than at a.bar, from hotel chain AKA and Ellen Yin’s High Street Hospitality Group. But there’s more reason to come here than the sunny corner spot: The drinks are inventive and well made.
7. Hop Sing Laundromat
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Hop Sing Laundromat’s air of mystery enhances its allure — and the outstanding drinks don’t hurt, either. The hidden Chinatown cocktail bar features a strict set of rules enforced by owner/proprietor Lê. Dressing inappropriately, taking photos inside, or doing something else to break one of them is to risk being added to the bar’s banned list. And no one wants to be banned from a beautiful bar with top-shelf liquor, fresh juices squeezed to order, and some of the best recipes around.
Top Chef winner Nick Elmi opened ITV next door to his upscale Laurel, giving those who aren’t up for the Laurel splurge a chance to sip creative cocktails and sample his cooking via an array of small plates. ITV stands for “In the Valley”— it’s a translation of “Passyunk,” the street and neighborhood where the bar is located.
9. The Good King Tavern
The Good King is a laid-back French bistro with a drinks list worth paying attention to. It covers the usuals — sazeracs, martinis, and so on — just as well as any other cocktail bar, but riffing off the classics is where the bartenders here truly excel.
10. Southwark Restaurant
With a menu full of interesting cocktails that make use of amaro, scotch, and uncommon spirits like South African Caperitif, Queen Village’s Southwark is undeniably a bar for grown ups. Stop by for a balanced cocktail before dinner, or settle in for a night of creative cocktails.
11. The Olde Bar
Jose Garces’ Olde Bar in Old City pays tribute to the address’s former life as the legendary Bookbinder’s by keeping fish house punch on the menu (three types of rum, brandy, peach cordial, and lemon). The long cocktail list includes other classics, from an old fashioned to a tiki-tastic jungle bird, alongside newer concoctions.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
The tiny dive bar upstairs from Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia doesn’t look like much, with its ripped seats and fridge case. But the beer menu at Fiume is impressive, especially given the bar’s size, and the whiskey selection is a contender for best in the city (and fairly priced, too). Owner/bartender Kevin Holland’s cocktails — made with whiskey or other spirits — are spectacular.
The latest from the team behind Cheu Noodle Bar has plenty going for it, with its stylish interior, side patio, long sake list, and highballs on draft. The Japan-inspired bar creatively employs Asian ingredients and liquors, including shochu (a Japanese distilled beverage), matcha, and pickled ginger.
Root — which shares owners with Philly’s current restaurant crush Suraya — shifted gears from full-service eatery to an experimental cocktail bar called R&D. The cocktail list rotates: Go now for tropical offerings.
Named a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2017 for its bar program, Kensington’s industrial-chic cocktail spot Martha is big on bold, but balanced, flavors. Bartender and “fermentation director” Mike Landers infuses his drinks with acidity, spice, bitterness, and funk in the form of ingredients like kombucha, jalapeño, and salted orange.