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A hand pours a cocktail into a delicate glass on a wood bar with several bottles with nozzles to the left. R&D Cocktail Bar/Facebook

14 Philly Bars for a Damn Good Cocktail

Where to drink when you’re craving something creative

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Philadelphia hasn’t always been a cocktail town, thanks to regretfully strict alcohol laws 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 14 places that do cocktails better than anyone else.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Martha

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2113 E York St
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(215) 867-8881
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Named a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2017 for its bar program, Kensington’s cocktail spot Martha is big on bold but balanced flavors. The drinks are infused with acidity, spice, bitterness, and funk in the form of ingredients like fermented honeycomb, wasabi, and apricot matcha tea.

interior of a bar with tables and round lights Martha [official]

2. Middle Child Clubhouse

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1232 N Front St
Philadelphia, PA 19122
(267) 858-4325
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It should come as no surprise that when Middle Child Clubhouse — the boozier, dinner-menu version of Middle Child the sandwich shop — opened in Fishtown, the drinks would be as fun as the dishes. That’s all thanks to beverage director Brandon Thrash, whose cocktail, beer, and wine selections are worth the visit to the Philly institution alone. The drinks menu changes, but the excellent negroni is always there for you.

A martini glass with a piece of twisted lemon on a blonde wood countertop in a booth. Gab Bonghi
1206 Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(215) 515-3452
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The cocktail list at R&D in Fishtown rotates based on the season, with warming beverages in the winter and more fruity offerings in the summer. No matter when you go, you’ll always have something nice to drink, including all the classics. Snacks are available, too.

Stephen Recchia

4. Hop Sing Laundromat

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1029 Race St
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 and some of the best cocktail recipes around.

hop sing Robert Neroni

5. The Ranstead Room

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2013 Ranstead St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 563-3330
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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.

6. a.bar

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135 S 18th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 825-7030
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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. The Library Bar

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210 W Rittenhouse Square
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 546-9000
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Hotel bars can be hit or miss. But when you land on a good one — especially with a long and inventive cocktail menu with drinks named for Philly neighborhoods, like Library Bar at the Rittenhouse Hotel — it can be worth pretending you’ve booked a room upstairs. The vibe inside is lovely, too.

8. Friday Saturday Sunday

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261 S 21st St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 546-4232
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Cocktail genius Paul MacDonald mixes up tempting cocktails poured into elegant glassware at local favorite fine dining destination Friday Saturday Sunday. MacDonald regularly rotates the cocktail list, and each new addition is always worth trying.

9. Forsythia

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233 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19105
(215) 644-9395
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With a nice cocktail list and a great happy hour, Forsythia is a comforting place to grab a seat at the bar and have some French snacks after work or before dinner. Try the Smoking Carrot: a mezcal cocktail with carrot ginger cordial.

10. The Olde Bar

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125 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 253-3777
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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, alongside newer concoctions.

a pink cocktail with ice and a berry garnish Olde Bar [official photo]

11. Sonny's Cocktail Joint

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1506 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19146

Cocktail is literally in the name over at Sonny’s Cocktail Joint, so it’s no surprise that there are over two dozen different cocktails for you to enjoy. Expect a couple different kinds of negronis, spritzes, and a host of other drinks organized by quippy categories. There’s a big back patio area for sipping, too.

12. The Good King Tavern

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614 S 7th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 625-3700
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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. The wine list is, of course, stellar.

13. Messina Club

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1533 S 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 928-4152
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Though Messina Social Club is also a restaurant, and you need to be a member to make a reservation, finding a friend who has a membership or becoming one yourself makes it worth it for the exceptional cocktails at the bar alone. The menu changes but the bartenders are friendly and know their stuff, so order what suits you. Make a dinner reservation, if you’re interested in hanging out after.

14. Laurel Restaurant

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1617 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 271-8299
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Top Chef winner Nick Elmi’s cocktail and wine bar ITV isn’t currently open, but fans of the intimate space and outstanding drink menu can still get the highlights at the upscale French restaurant Laurel. Grab a seat at the bar, or go for the full dinner reservation and taste the cocktails along with dinner.

1. Martha

2113 E York St, Philadelphia, PA 19125
interior of a bar with tables and round lights Martha [official]

Named a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2017 for its bar program, Kensington’s cocktail spot Martha is big on bold but balanced flavors. The drinks are infused with acidity, spice, bitterness, and funk in the form of ingredients like fermented honeycomb, wasabi, and apricot matcha tea.

2113 E York St
Philadelphia, PA 19125

2. Middle Child Clubhouse

1232 N Front St, Philadelphia, PA 19122
A martini glass with a piece of twisted lemon on a blonde wood countertop in a booth. Gab Bonghi

It should come as no surprise that when Middle Child Clubhouse — the boozier, dinner-menu version of Middle Child the sandwich shop — opened in Fishtown, the drinks would be as fun as the dishes. That’s all thanks to beverage director Brandon Thrash, whose cocktail, beer, and wine selections are worth the visit to the Philly institution alone. The drinks menu changes, but the excellent negroni is always there for you.

1232 N Front St
Philadelphia, PA 19122

3. R&D

1206 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Stephen Recchia

The cocktail list at R&D in Fishtown rotates based on the season, with warming beverages in the winter and more fruity offerings in the summer. No matter when you go, you’ll always have something nice to drink, including all the classics. Snacks are available, too.

1206 Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125

4. Hop Sing Laundromat

1029 Race St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
hop sing Robert Neroni

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 and some of the best cocktail recipes around.

1029 Race St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

5. The Ranstead Room

2013 Ranstead St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

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.

2013 Ranstead St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

6. a.bar

135 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

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.

135 S 18th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

7. The Library Bar

210 W Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Hotel bars can be hit or miss. But when you land on a good one — especially with a long and inventive cocktail menu with drinks named for Philly neighborhoods, like Library Bar at the Rittenhouse Hotel — it can be worth pretending you’ve booked a room upstairs. The vibe inside is lovely, too.

210 W Rittenhouse Square
Philadelphia, PA 19103

8. Friday Saturday Sunday

261 S 21st St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Cocktail genius Paul MacDonald mixes up tempting cocktails poured into elegant glassware at local favorite fine dining destination Friday Saturday Sunday. MacDonald regularly rotates the cocktail list, and each new addition is always worth trying.

261 S 21st St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

9. Forsythia

233 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19105

With a nice cocktail list and a great happy hour, Forsythia is a comforting place to grab a seat at the bar and have some French snacks after work or before dinner. Try the Smoking Carrot: a mezcal cocktail with carrot ginger cordial.

233 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19105

10. The Olde Bar

125 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
a pink cocktail with ice and a berry garnish Olde Bar [official photo]

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, alongside newer concoctions.

125 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

11. Sonny's Cocktail Joint

1506 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19146

Cocktail is literally in the name over at Sonny’s Cocktail Joint, so it’s no surprise that there are over two dozen different cocktails for you to enjoy. Expect a couple different kinds of negronis, spritzes, and a host of other drinks organized by quippy categories. There’s a big back patio area for sipping, too.

1506 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19146

12. The Good King Tavern

614 S 7th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

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. The wine list is, of course, stellar.

614 S 7th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

13. Messina Club

1533 S 10th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Though Messina Social Club is also a restaurant, and you need to be a member to make a reservation, finding a friend who has a membership or becoming one yourself makes it worth it for the exceptional cocktails at the bar alone. The menu changes but the bartenders are friendly and know their stuff, so order what suits you. Make a dinner reservation, if you’re interested in hanging out after.

1533 S 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

14. Laurel Restaurant

1617 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148

Top Chef winner Nick Elmi’s cocktail and wine bar ITV isn’t currently open, but fans of the intimate space and outstanding drink menu can still get the highlights at the upscale French restaurant Laurel. Grab a seat at the bar, or go for the full dinner reservation and taste the cocktails along with dinner.

1617 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

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