Cocktails Get a Closeup

Photo courtesy of Peggy Baud-Woolsey

Photo courtesy of Peggy Baud-Woolsey

by Emily Kovach

If you’re looking for a place to celebrate a happy birthday, or just a happy hour, here are some of our favorite cocktail spots in the city. Get comfy at the bar and get up close and personal with a coupe glass or two.

1 Tippling Place 
2006 Chestnut St. 
At this pseudo-speakeasy, plush curtains block out the street, cozy seating arrangements encourage intimate gatherings, and a ridiculously well-stocked bar is a portent of the quality drinks made behind it. The cocktail menu slants seasonal, but a classic Moscow mule or French 75 will also be crafted to perfection. 

Brick and Mortar
315 N. 12th St. 
Is it 5 o’clock yet? In a town long on happy hours, this one is a serious winner: super-cheap snacks (hello, tandoori pork loin!) and a range of drinks at dive bar prices. Speaking of drinks, we don’t know quite how they do it, but the BAM bartenders mix an old fashioned our editor says is the best she’s ever had. 

Double Knot 
120 S. 13th St.
Looking for an upbeat buzz, but want to graduate from a certain energy drink and vodka combo? Coffee cocktails—so much more than espressotinis—at this uber cool, multifaceted Midtown spot get the job done in style. For something unexpected, try The Charger, with fernet, Tuaca and smooth, creamy nitro cold brew coffee. 

La Peg Brasserie  
140 N. Columbus Blvd.
This dramatically renovated industrial bar—complete with salvaged materials—lives in the beautiful FringeArts building on the Delaware waterfront. Check out their signature cocktails, cheekily named for theater tropes, like the Load In, combining Lillet, vodka and gin; fitting for a restaurant that often hosts Friday night arts performances. 

Good King Tavern
614 S. 7th St.
The French know how to drink, and this snug corner bar in Bella Vista brings that sensibility to life. Wines, by the glass or the pichet (carafe) are listed as “Good,” “Better” and “Best,” and a cultivated list of predinner drinks presents pastis, vermouths and other apéritifs any aspirational drinker should get better acquainted with. The house and classic cocktails get the royal treatment, with splashes of sparkling wine, Fernet-Branca fortification, egg white frothiness and other touches that show a bartender really cares. 

Martha
2113 E. York St.
Martha is the cool new girl in the neighborhood who throws the parties you want an invite to. A swift antidote for the misguided stereotype that cocktails are pretension, the drinks list gets gleefully weird and fanciful. The Media is the Message blends a porter from Baltimore’s Sterling Pig brewery with aged rum and mole spiced bitters. Timm’s Cup takes gin infused with mild cotto salami and adds (get ready) artichoke-based amaro Cynar, Punt e Mes vermouth, orange curacao, cherry, cucumber, lemon peel and ginger beer. Drinking should be fun, right? 

Oyster House 
1516 Sansom St.
Oysters and booze, booze and oysters—we can’t think of a lovelier pair. Wash down those bodacious bivalves with a Don Jawn (white rum, ginger, lime, cassis and St. Germain) or a glass of bourbon-spiked punch.If classic cocktails and a taste of Maine are your thing, try the lobster roll with a cold martini. It’s next to impossible to be disappointed when you can choose from an impressive selection of 50-plus gins at this beloved seafood joint. Get there early for happy hour, because their lovely, bright bar fills up fast. 

Root
1206 Frankford Ave. 
A newer addition to the Fishtown food scene, Root has been noticed for an expansive wine list, but the rest of the drinks menu is equally robust. We’re especially digging imaginative takes on gin and tonics, breathing new life into the timeworn combo with fresh herbs, spices and fruit. 

Stateside
1536 E. Passyunk Ave. 
Whether you identify as a “gin person,” seek out only brown spirits, or unapologetically crave the sweet and fruity stuff, Stateside has a well-composed cocktail waiting for you, focusing on domestic liquors, fresh juices and ingenious combos. Consider the Pineapple Collins, one of their signature cocktails. The marriage of Tito’s vodka sweetened up with pineapple, jazzed with a spike of lemon and made sippable with a splash of club soda, will have you asking, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

White Dog Cafe
3420 Sansom St.
One of the first Philly establishments to truly focus on farm fresh produce, the University City location of White Dog is also home to a beautiful, long and low bar, around which patrons gather throughout the day, especially during their outstanding happy hour. The Dirty Dog, which mixes vodka and spicy pickle juice, is one of our favorite martini iterations around. High- fives for a small but creative list of mocktails, too.

Zahav
237 St. James Place
The modern Israeli cuisine at Chef Michael Solomonov’s first restaurant has been knocking Philadelphians’ socks off for years. The cocktails hold their own: A pitcher of Lemonanna (minty whiskey lemonade), some hummus and a tower of salatim might be the classiest—and the most satisfying—drink and snack trio in the city.