Top Shelf: Elegant
90 Haddon Avenue, Westmont, 856-833-9800, corknj.com
Seeing as the stereotype of ho-hum strip malls full of pizza and liquor joints often rings true in Jersey, Cork is a surprising breath of refined air. Both area residents and business park-ers gather here on weeknights for the extensive martini list and thoughtful draft combos (we were especially intrigued by the Dirty Hoe, a sweet marriage of Hoegaarden and Framboise), while weekends cast a larger net. Look for regulars, dapper businessmen wrapping up a deal, and the yuppy-chic taking in the Saturday-night jazz band, pomegranate martinis in hand.
Four Seasons, 1 Logan Square, 215-963-1500, fourseasons.com/philadelphia
There was a time not that long ago when the drink list at the Four Seasons’ luxe lounge read like an out-of-print cocktail guide: French 75s and Pimm’s Cups. But now that those classic cocktails are in vogue again, it’s all mojitos and strikingly pink lemonade martinis. No matter. Being of-the-moment isn’t the point here. Swann is a timeless Philly haunt: vested servers, complimentary nibbles, a single couple swaying to soft jazz on the miniature dance floor, and a bar accustomed both to mixing a manhattan and opening a bottle of Bud.
The Union League
140 South Broad Street, 215-563-6500, unionleague.org
The Union League is so archetypal — so what you would expect from the city’s snobbiest private club — that it almost feels like a movie set pretending to be a power hub. All of the accoutrements (courtesy of a recent renovation) are here, from the heavy tapestry drapes to the leather club chairs (and walls!), and suitably august gilt-framed oil paintings. You half expect to see Old Man Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life in the corner, miserly counting gold coins. CNBC plays constantly on three TVs (the only clue that’s it not 1920), and members cough up big annual dues to broker deals over fine scotch and Boddingtons on tap. While aptly named bartender Sunny Griffin contends the three-martini-lunch days are over, a man’s libations are still prized: Many members have their own engraved scotch glasses and pewter steins displayed on either side of the bar. Membership has its privileges.
The Boat House
8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-2244
It’s not easy to find — it’s actually a converted garage at the rear of a gravel driveway — but worth the treasure hunt. The dim, homey bar seats six (yes, six), with about a dozen more chairs at tables on the tiny first floor; there’s additional seating up the curving pie stairs. Rich the bartender is always happy to chat (and makes a tangy amaretto sour for the girl-drink drunks) in a warm atmosphere that marries musty attic with Agatha Christie hotel. Tucked by the window with a snifter, you realize there may be no better bar in which to spend a late, rainy afternoon.