Philadelphia is one of America’s oldest cities and befittingly has one of the most historic bar scenes. Back in the 1730s, the local Schuylkill Fishing Company club was famous for serving glasses of Fish House Punch. The city also gave the world the Clover Club cocktail. Harry Johnson, famed mixologist and author of the Bartenders’ Manual, even slung drinks in Philly for the centennial celebration of the country’s independence. But this is a living history and the City of Brotherly Love is home to many fine modern cocktail bars.
APO, 102 South 13th Street, Philadelphia, 215 735 7500:
The bar, formally known as Apothecary, is a cutting-edge lounge with a slick interior and innovative cocktails. (It’s pictured above.) The drinks program was set up by the renowned cocktail consultants the Tippling Bros. Head bartender Preston Ellis now runs the show with his team of expertly trained mixologists.
What to Drink: Midtown Village (Rye, port, amaro, Italian vermouth, Fee Brothers Bitters)
Chick’s Café, 614 South 7th Street, Philadelphia, 215 625 3700:
One of the city’s oldest drinking establishments—it opened in 1893—Chick’s Café is passionately run by Phoebe Esmon, the president of Pennsylvania’s chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. Go on Tuesday for the farmers’ market cocktail night, when she mixes drinks with fresh fruits and spices bought that day.
What to Drink: El Periodo (Plymouth Gin, rose petal, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, basil leaf)
The Franklin, 112 South 18th Street, Philadelphia, 267 467 3277:
During Prohibition, the Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company was actually an illicit distillery producing thousands of gallons of alcohol a day. Now it’s the namesake for this wonderful bar, which offers a list of classically inspired cocktails.
What to Drink: Americana Especial (Campari, white vermouth, Angostura Bitters, seltzer)
Noble, 2025 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, 215 568 7000:
Famous for its artisanal approach to American cuisine, Noble also has a fine bar that is manned by Christian Raphael Gaal. Just like the restaurant’s chef, he uses fresh herbs in his creations that are grown on-site.
What to Drink: Blood & Sand (Scotch, Cherry Herring, fresh orange juice, sweet red vermouth)
Southwark, 701 South 4th Street, Philadelphia, 215 238 1888:
The Southwark is responsible for leading the classic cocktail movement in Philadelphia. It also offers one of the country’s largest collections of rye and gin. No matter what you order you’ll get a well-made classic every time.
What to Drink: Ocean Shore (Plymouth Gin, Plymouth Sloe Gin, orgeat syrup, lemon, egg white)
Village Whiskey, 118 South 20th Street, Philadelphia, 215 665 1088:
As you could probably guess, Village Whiskey offers an impressive selection of bourbons, ryes, Irish whiskies and Scotches. Bartenders Keith Raimondi and Stephen Seibert offer a fine list of Prohibition and repeal cocktails. Have a gourmet burger from James Beard award-winning chef Jose Garces’ menu with your drink.
What to Drink: The Pine Barren (Scotch, Stone Pine Liqueur, pineapple, honey syrup)
Looking for more great watering holes? Check out our bar guide for the best bars in the world.
Simon Ford is an award-winning bartender and director of trade outreach and brand education for Pernod Ricard USA. He is also a Liquor.com advisor.