Philly Has Some Wild Martinis Right Now. Here’s Your Guide to Drinking Them
Pasta water ’tinis, kimchi ’tinis, and pickle-beet-caraway ’tinis are all available to nourish your salt-obsessed, cold soul.
Even on my laziest days, an icy martini is enough to inspire me to dig a pressed shirt out of my closet, take a shower and give this cocktail the respect it deserves. If I’m drinking a martini, I’m committed to a night on the town, to wearing velvet or silk, or both. And so should you. Especially because, right now, Philly restaurants and bars are serving somewhat unhinged and delightful spins on the classic martini. There’s a cornichon martini at The Good King Tavern or a rose-scented version at Middle Child Clubhouse. And even if you have the drinking preferences of a suited-up business exec from the 1950s, we encourage you to try something new and exciting. These are the places you should start, plus some Philly restaurants and bars serving classic martinis for all the purists, too.
The not-so-classic options:
Fiorella, Italian Market
The worst thing about Fiorella is that it’s not the type of restaurant where you could stop in for a quick drink at the bar — because it’s packed every night. Sadly, you will definitely need to make a reservation in advance or use some of these table-snagging tricks. If you manage to pull that off, reward yourself by starting (or ending) your meal with a salty martini made with your choice of vodka or gin, a couple of olives, and a splash of Fiorella’s pasta water. The rigatoni works nicely as a side dish to your martini, FYI.
The Good King Tavern, Queen Village
If you’re reading this guide, you probably know that most dirty martinis are made with a splash of olive brine. Leave it to the staff at the Good King Tavern to come up with a variation that uses cornichon brine for a pickle-y twist, plus génépy and salers, two herb-based French/Swiss aperitifs that will make you feel extremely in-the-know, and which happen to be perfectly bracing.
Kpod, University City
Maybe the lesson of this list is that more briny delicious foods can (and should) be turned into a martini. Kpod — a Korean restaurant on Penn’s campus that took over the Pod space in 2022 — proves this point by stirring up a very good martini with kimchi-infused soju. With two types of gin, a little vermouth, and a pickled scallion, it pairs well with crunchy fried chicken and yellowtail hand rolls.
Ember and Ash, East Passyunk
If you’re looking for an under-the-radar cocktail program that is imaginative, seasonal, and likely to make you have one too many on a Wednesday night, head to Ember and Ash. Their pickle beet martini is the perfect example of the classic-but-surprising drinks coming out of their kitchen and bar. It’s blood-red with vodka, beet juice, house dill pickle brine and caraway — sort of like the martini that you would make if all of your ingredients were coming from a Jewish deli (in a wonderful way).
Middle Child Clubhouse, Fishtown
Few things at Middle Child Clubhouse qualify as subtle or dainty, except for, surprisingly, their house martini. Dubbed “the easy martini,” it’s flowery and smooth with gin and sherry. It is, indeed, the easiest drink on this list.
Townsend EPX, East Passyunk
For an easy-drinking cocktail, Townsend’s Reverse Vodka Martini combines white vermouth, green chartreuse, orange and lavender bitters, plus vodka for something that won’t knock you out before your dinner. A tip: You can sit at the bar without having to order the restaurant’s tasting menu.
Plus, some classics, too:
Butcher and Singer, Center City
Hit up Butcher and Singer to fulfill your old-school dirty martini dreams. Their version is made tableside by tuxedo-clad waiters who leave the shaker behind on the table so you can top yourself off. This drink has plenty of blue cheese olives that cut an oil slick across the surface of the icy liquid. If you’re thinking, “What year is it?” when you’re in here, you’ve done the night right.
Parc Rittenhouse, Rittenhouse
A martini should transport you away from the tedium of everyday life. Parc does this twice over with its Parisian bistro interior, sunny sidewalk tables, and excellent variety of gins, just waiting to be stirred into an icy cocktail glass.
Oyster House, Center City
At Oyster House, the bar staff blends their own gin to accentuate the botanicals, and makes their own dry vermouth to stir in. At this Philly institution, you’ll be reminded why a martinis are the scientifically perfect accompaniment to a dozen oysters. (It has something to do with salinity and the ocean, we assume).
Southwark Restaurant, Queen Village
If you find yourself leaning toward gin martinis, check out Southwark, where one of the best gin collections in the city means nearly endless combinations of martinis. Let the knowledgeable staff guide you through their offerings, then sit back and trust you’re in good hands. Fun fact: On Tuesdays, Southwark has a weekly-changing BBQ menu available at the bar, on their patio, or to-go.