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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

13 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 13 places that do cocktails better than anyone else.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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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]

Middle Child Clubhouse

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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

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

Hop Sing Laundromat

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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

The Ranstead Room

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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.

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.

The Library Bar

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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.

Friday Saturday Sunday

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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.

Forsythia

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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.

The Olde Bar

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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]

The Good King Tavern

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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.

Messina Club

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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.

Laurel Restaurant

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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.

Martha

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.

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

Middle Child Clubhouse

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.

A martini glass with a piece of twisted lemon on a blonde wood countertop in a booth. Gab Bonghi

R&D

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.

Stephen Recchia

Hop Sing Laundromat

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.

hop sing Robert Neroni

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.

a.bar

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.

The Library Bar

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.

Friday Saturday Sunday

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.

Forsythia

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.

The Olde Bar

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.

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

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. The wine list is, of course, stellar.

Messina Club

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.

Laurel Restaurant

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.

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