Cocktail Bars in Philly: The Ultimate Guide

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best cocktail bars philadelphia[1]

Friday Saturday Sunday | Facebook

I don’t really have to make a case for Philly’s cocktail scene, do I?

At this point in hospitality history, you can go almost anywhere in this city and get a decent drink. Half the joints in town have bar programs that are as good as (or better than) their kitchens. Bartenders are just as serious about their craft as chefs were back in the chef-iest days of the American culinary boom. And yes, this leads to some esoteric weirdness sometimes, but it also makes for a scene where experimentation is encouraged and the best successes stand out.

And at the very top of the heap, we have a tight, compact list of bars where the cocktail is elevated to a work of art — places where scholarship, creativity, and fun come together in perfect proportions to create drinks that can be as memorable as any plate. Those are the places we’re concerned with here: the best cocktail bars in Philly. So let’s begin with…

best cocktail bars philadelphia suraya[2]

Suraya | Photo by Melissa Alam

The Cocktail Bars You Must Try First

ITV[3], East Passyunk
Nick Elmi’s recent refocus on the bar half of his business at ITV has been a boon to drinkers. With more than a dozen signature cocktails on the menu, every one of them interesting for two or three different reasons, this is one that you’ve gotta try. Even if you have to fight to get a seat. 1615 East Passyunk Avenue

Manatawny Still Works[4], South Philly
The tasting room is supposed to be just an outlet for the Manatawny crew to show off their local booze. Instead, it’s a place for the bartenders to sling an entire menu of craft cocktails and wild experiments (while also showing off their local booze). Bonus: they’ll let you roll in with a whole pizza if you want, which is a nice touch for a place without a proper kitchen. 1603 East Passyunk Avenue

Hop Sing Laundromat[5], Chinatown
No matter how you feel about Lê, his policies, his persona or the bar itself, his drinks are remarkable for their simplicity, creativity, and precision pairing. The Henry Box Brown, the Redneck Sangria, the Nevermore… Someday they’ll be talked about like the Clover Club or the Last Word. 1029 Race Street

Suraya[6], Fishtown
I don’t think anyone would’ve expected a Lebanese all-day cafe to have one of the best bar programs in the city. But the little hints of Middle Eastern flavor woven through the cocktail menu (anise, cardamom, Ceylon tea) are amazing, and the crew are both friendly and knowledgeable enough to discuss them at length. 1528 Frankford Avenue

Good King Tavern[7], Bella Vista
With seasonal menus and ever-changing cocktails du jour, you’ll never drink the same thing twice at Good King. Unless you want to, because the Manhattan is always good. 614 South 7th Street

The International[8], Kensington
The Service Bar, up a flight of stairs at the back of the downstairs bar, is where The International’s cocktails live — the interesting ones, anyway. They’re going heavy on local spirits and even have their own house rye, made for them by the team at Rowhouse Spirits (which, for some people, will be reason enough to check the place out). 1624 North Front Street

best cocktails philadelphia franklin[9]

The Franklin Bar | Facebook

The Best Cocktail Bars in Rittenhouse and Center City

Friday Saturday Sunday
The new and improved bar here is good at a lot of things, but the best test of any bar is whether they can pour the classics while resisting the urge to stick in a bunch of lemongrass or strawberry jam. Try an Old Fashioned and you’ll see what I mean. 261 South 21st Street

The Love[10]
A Very Good Bourbon Drink (Beam Black, vermouth, apple cider and bitters) is precisely what it says. And I appreciate that kind of honesty on a cocktail menu. 130 South 18th Street

V Street
I’m never going to forget the time I had the cocktail here made with yellow mustard (it wasn’t bad). But the current menu of vegan cocktails includes things like the Champagne Poppy, a Mai Tai made with Thai chile orgeat and a mix of gin, poppy seed amaro, and sparkling wine. 126 South 19th Street 

Helm Rittenhouse[11]
Any bar that uses English peas as a cocktail ingredient (in their gin-and-mezcal Green Thumb) belongs on this list. 1901 Chestnut Street

Ranstead Room[12]
Yes, the Ranstead crew can make you a Negroni. But they can also do smart, balanced things with artichoke bitters and rhubarb and avocado oil-washed cachaça. 2013 Ranstead Street

The Franklin Bar[13]
A bar run by bartenders. A cocktail program designed by men and women who live and breathe liquor. The Cowboy Killer, served here back when it was still called Franklin Mortage and Investment Co., was one of the most memorable drinks I’ve ever had (despite remembering very little of what happened afterward). Today, they’re still doing the same kind of remarkable work. 112 South 18th Street

The Deadly Nightshade (made with bourbon, limoncello, and chamomile) is the perfect start — or end — to any evening. And their Heavenly Blues is like a modern re-interpretation of the classic Aviation. 2121 Walnut Street[14]
Forget the mimosa. I don’t know when you’re reading this, but if the Orange Catholic is still on the menu at, it should be your new go-to brunch/breakfast cocktail. 1737 Walnut Street

Oyster House[15]
Philly has lots of whiskey bars. Oyster House is a gin bar. Best place in the city for a G&T or a perfect martini, bar none. 1516 Sansom Street

best cocktail bars philadelphia maison 208[16]

Maison 208 | Facebook

The Best Cocktail Bars in Midtown Village and Callowhill

Trestle Inn
Amid the go-go dancers, colored lights and crowds, this bar is perfect for drinking like your grandpa did–Old Fashioneds and gimlets and whiskey straight up. 339 North 11th Street

The menu offers four different scorpion bowls and a whole section labeled “#Trashy” that’s full of things like the Party Jawn, made with white rum, pineapple juice and Sprite, or the Trashcan, which is basically all the non-brown spirits, plus Red Bull and “blue stuff,” mixed together. 102 South 13th Street

Bud & Marilyn’s[18]
There are a ton of custom cocktails on the menu, including frozen rosé wine, an updated Clover Club and a couple of new Old Fashioneds. But if you’re looking for a place to knock back a couple of CC and 7’s, there is no better place in the neighborhood than this ode to midcentury Midwestern cool. 1234 Locust Street

Maison 208[19]
This place once served a $30 gin and tonic made with a golden ladle and flavored from a tableside terrarium of herbs. It served a Lagavulin under a glass bell full of tobacco smoke, with a cigar on the side. And while the cocktail menu has become a little more restrained since the opening (no more charcoal, no more moss), I wouldn’t put it past this crew to get up to those kinds of alcoholic highjinks now and then. 208 South 13th Street

Franky Bradley’s[20], Center City
The Franky’s Punch tastes like an updated take on something that would’ve been served out of a cut-glass bowl at your drunk uncle’s tiki party in 1977. 1320 Chancellor Street

Knock[21], Center City
It’s a piano bar. It’s one of the city’s best LGBTQ drinking spots. And where else in this town can you still go and order a Grasshopper, a champagne cocktail, or a chocolate martini without the bartender looking at you like a dog trying to do long division? 225 South 12th Street

best cocktail bars philadelphia palizzi[22]

Palizzi Social Club | Photo by Jason Varney

The Best Cocktail Bars in South Philly and Graduate Hospital

Rex 1516
This is where you go when you’re looking for a Hurricane, a mint julep, an absinthe-rinsed sazerac, or any of the other classic cocktails of the South. 1516 South Street

The crew at Irwin’s knows how to shake up a Vesper or an Old Fashioned as well as anyone. But the Black Honey (with rum, Cynar, lime, and cinnamon honey) or the Angelface (a gin and brandy mix, which seems insane until you taste it) put this spot solidly up there with Philly’s modern masters. 1901 South 9th Street

The Classics section of the menu here has a Fernet & Cola that’s made with house-made cola syrup, carpano antica, fresh lemon and soda water. That’s a lot of trouble to go through for what’s essentially a two-step, blank-and-blank cocktail. And it’s totally worth it. 701 South 4th Street

The cherrywood bar at Townsend exists almost as a refutation of Philadelphia’s love of BYOs. Restaurants need bars. All restaurants should have one as good as this. If you’re looking for a martini before dinner (a proper one, with gin and an olive), there are very few better places to go. 1623 East Passyunk Avenue

Palizzi Social Club
Walking through the doors here (if you can get through the door, what with the memberships and all) is like stepping back in time. It’s a great place for a gimlet, a Sidecar, a rye on the rocks. And even the house cocktails, while new and original, feel as though they were plucked from alcoholic antiquity. 1408 South 12th Street

best cocktail bars old city philadelphia[24]

Art in the Age | Facebook

The Best Cocktail Bars in Old City and Northern Liberties

The Lola is vodka, cherry, lime, ginger beer, and rhubarb. The Little Viking mixes aquavit and tequila. They look and feel like classics — like drinks that’ve been around forever — but include pairing and ingredients not often seen together. 447 Poplar Street

Art in the Age[26]
Art in the Age makes a lot of seriously strange spirits. Think tamarind cordial, maple applejack, and beaver castoreum whiskey[27]. In their tasting room, they teach the world how to use them. 116 North 3rd Street

The dim lights, tin ceilings and occasional live music make this place something of a departure from the standard Old City bar. And the cocktails shaken up by the bartenders (classics and updated versions of classics) are among the best in the neighborhood. 48 South 2nd Street

Katie Loeb is behind the bar here, doing cocktails that match the Latino-Asian fusion street food concept in the kitchen. Her Szechuan Sangria is the perfect example. 33 South 2nd Street

Royal Boucherie[30]
The bar crew at Royal Boucherie have put together a menu that’s packed with unsung classics, some adapted and some made just as they would have been a century ago. The Deshler, the Boulervardier, and the Gibson should be familiar. The Very Stable Genius? Not so much. 52 South 2nd Street

best cocktail bars fishtown[31]

Martha | Facebook

The Best Cocktail Bars in Fishtown and Kensington

Wm. Mulherin’s Sons
The Clover Club here will change the way you think about classic cocktails forever. 1355 North Front Street

If you love booze and you love kombucha, why not have them together? Or at least that’s what the crew behind the long oak at Martha think. Even the house favorite shot of Cynar and bourbon is a little bit strange. 2113 East York Street

best cocktail bars west philly[32]

Dock Street Cannery + Lounge | Photo by Patrick McGettigan

The Best Cocktail Bars in West Philly

There are probably a lot of you out there who don’t think of Fiume as a cocktail bar, but more as a kind of secret temple of brown liquor and rare beers. But those who’ve put the bartenders through their paces here will fight you. 229 South 45th Street

Dock Street Cannery + Lounge[34]
A tasting room and lounge that features cocktails made with Dock Street beers–including one named for Birdie Draper, which I think deserves bonus points. Plus, the Summer Tonic exists like the cross between a martini and a g&t that I’ve been searching for all my life. 705 South 50th Street

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  3. ITV:
  4. Manatawny Still Works:
  5. Hop Sing Laundromat:
  6. Suraya:
  7. Good King Tavern:
  8. The International:
  9. [Image]:
  10. The Love:
  11. Helm Rittenhouse:
  12. Ranstead Room:
  13. The Franklin Bar:
  15. Oyster House:
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  17. Tiki:
  18. Bud & Marilyn’s:
  19. Maison 208:
  20. Franky Bradley’s:
  21. Knock:
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  23. Irwin’s:
  24. [Image]:
  25. Bardot:
  26. Art in the Age:
  27. beaver castoreum whiskey:
  28. Sassafras:
  29. Ardiente:
  30. Royal Boucherie:
  31. [Image]:
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  33. Fiume:
  34. Dock Street Cannery + Lounge:

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