Philadelphia is home to some of the most revered speakeasies and beer bars in the country. The city has made room for an ever-growing cocktail scene over the past several years, while remaining true to its dive-bar roots. The Rittenhouse Square neighborhood is one of the country’s most densely-populated places for restaurants and bars, and offers the city’s imbibers a truly impressive array of dining and drinking options—all within walking distance of one another. However, every neighborhood in the city brings something to the table, a fact that Philly drinkers know well.
As always, this list is not meant to be a ranking or an exhaustive compilation of the best cocktail programs or drink menus in the city—instead, this is simply a list of our favorite watering holes, based on the experiences of our staff and discerning drinking buddies in Philadelphia. Our standard rule applies: all picks had to be legal, public-access venues, which meant no private clubs or lounges were included.
So, without further ado, here are Bevvy’s picks for the best bars in Philadelphia.
The Best Bars in Philadelphia
112 S 18th St (Rittenhouse Square / Penn Center) // www.thefranklinbar.com
Sara Justice and the team behind Philadelphia’s most exalted cocktail bar continue to wow patrons with seasonal menus on par with any other drinking establishment in North America. Currently, the menu features a challenging, three-course seasonal tasting menu by bartender Zach Kessler, inspired by the enchanting world of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Titled “Pure Imagination,” the cocktails that make up this journey for the palate are absolute marvels. The Everlasting Gobstopper, a comforting and savory Hot Buttered Rum cup flavored with duck prosciutto and sweet potato, follows the equally ambitious Golden Ticket, which consists of a clarified Piña Colada topped with a whipped Dark and Stormy. Another menu favorite of the moment is a creamy tequila concoction with one of the best names we’ve ever heard: There is no Dana, Only Zuul.
1029 Race St (Chinatown) // hopsinglaundromat.com
Located behind an unmarked door in the middle of Philadelphia’s electric Chinatown neighborhood, Hop Sing Laundromat is a local institution and one of the most sought-out speakeasies in the country. Once you’re ushered in by a doorman, HSL has a zero-tolerance policy for faux pas like sneakers and cell phones (the horror) and no qualms about kicking you out when you misbehave. Somewhat comically, the elusive leader of the place, known only as Lê, is well known as an unabashed, likely tongue-in-cheek supporter of the North Korean Regime and Kim Jong-Un.
2013 Ranstead St (Rittenhouse Square / Penn Center)
Another Philadelphia speakeasy known for amazing cocktails is this industry favorite off of Rittenhouse Square. The interior lights illuminate a selection of fresh fruit and accoutrements beneath an arched inlaid bar, and the heavy beams that support the ceiling give the room a concealed, intimate feeling—quite a feat when you consider the typically animated atmosphere. Ranstead is located beneath the vintage Mexican El Rey Diner and Cocktail Lounge, a perfect place to enjoy a meal before being escorted downstairs for after-dinner cocktails.
2031 Walnut St (Rittenhouse Square) // vernickphilly.com
Vernick Food and Drink is a compact, two-floor restaurant in Rittenhouse Square that boasts one of Philly’s most finely-tuned cocktail selections. The menu features a creative list of classic, contemporary, and seasonal recipes, as well as an impressive wine selection. Vernick is owned by Jean-Georges alumnus Chef Greg Vernick and his wife Julie, who are both dedicated to serving their Philadelphia neighbors some of the best cuisine in the Northeast.
1850 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy (Logan Square) // urbanfarmerphiladelphia.com
Known as Philadelphia’s Steakhouse, Urban Farmer is an expansive restaurant and bar that makes some of Philly’s finest cocktails amidst a “rural chic” backdrop that feels uniquely Northeastern. The drink menu does a wonderful job of highlighting locally-sourced Pennsylvania spirits and combining them with unique ingredients like pepper jelly and hopped grapefruit ice.
1800 Federal St (Point Breeze) // americansardinebar.com
Housed inside a ramshackle building in Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood, this local dive has exceptional bar food (we’re talking a fried PB&J and Pittsburgh short ribs) and a patio adorned with ’70s-style folding lawn chairs where guests can dance and mingle under Christmas lights. The staff is welcoming and can make any cocktail you like, but we love coming here for the selection of unique craft brews, and the late-night happy hour that runs from 11 p.m.-1 a.m.
Buckminster’s (now closed)
1200 S 21st St (Point Breeze) // www.buckminstersphl.com
As with many of Philly’s most refined places to drink, Buckminster’s is located within an equally impressive restaurant. Buckminster’s has a simple and elegant bar space featuring light wood and polished metal. The drink menu features six rotating cocktails, three of which can be purchased as a group-pour for four people. Each drink is prepared beautifully by Buckminster’s knowledgeable and talented staff and presented without pretense.
229 S 45th St (Spruce Hill)
Climb the stairs at Abyssinia—Spruce Hill’s favorite Ethiopian spot—to Fiume, a long-running cash-only speakeasy with hand-drawn signs and killer cocktails. Kevin James Holland has created a place that feels like a secret, no matter how many people you know who’ve been through it’s doors, and it remains a classic Philadelphia experience. There is no phone and no website for this off the radar location, so trust us it’s there.
1315 Sansom St (Market East / Center City) // www.timerestaurant.net
Nestled into the middle of Sansom Street in Center City is the unassuming Time. This diamond in the rough has an extensive collection of domestic and scotch whisky and some of Philadelphia’s most passionate industry folks. There’s live jazz, funk, or soul pretty much every day, and the two-room setup on the first floor is perfect for allowing patrons to either enjoy the show or a bit of relative quiet.
118 S 20th St (Rittenhouse Square) // philadelphia.villagewhiskey.com
Chef Jose Garces’ Rittenhouse whiskey bar may be known for it’s duck fat french fries and award-winning burgers, but with a name like Village Whiskey the spirits menu needs to be extensive—and it is. Some of Philly’s most sought-after bottles sit among this bar’s high shelves. The decor is impeccably-dressed early mid-century and the staff is filled with passionate, knowledgeable bartenders eager to introduce patrons to something new.
757 S Front St (Queen Village) // www.kanellarestaurant.com
Kanella is an upscale Cypriot bar and restaurant in Queen Village. Chef and Owner Konstantinos Pitsillides recently took a big chance by relocating Kanella from its former BYOB location in Washington Square West, but it has paid off for Philadelphia drinkers. The cocktail menu is one of the most floral and inviting in the city and serves unique, authentic Mediterranean spirits like Tsipouro, a strong Greek brandy produced from pomace. The exceptionally authentic interior features Cypriot tile, hammered copper bar stools and, of course, is dominated by the smells coming from an open flame burning inside the restaurant’s brick hearth.
2401 E Norris St (Fishtown) // www.locopez.com
Loco Pez is a corner taco bar with vintage flair and punk sensibilities. There’s a lot to love about a Philly dive serving SoCal tacos in a ’70s-style den experience. They have a list of over 25 tequila and mezcal varieties, and some interesting agave-based cocktails as well.
1509 South St (Rittenhouse Square) // www.bobandbarbaras.com
Home of the infamous “Citywide Special,” consisting of a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jim Beam, this Philadelphia legend set the stage for generations of bar owners and Philadelphia drinkers. The appeal is undeniable. If you wanted to memorialize the heart of Philly drinking culture, you could draw the whole picture from atop one of their historic barstools.
701 S 4th St (Queen Village) // www.southwarkrestaurant.com
Hearty plates accompany large, chilled cocktails in an elegant, dimly-lit setting. Southwark continues to have all of the ingredients for a truly memorable Philadelphia evening. The bar is quickly regaining the patronage of Philly’s upper crust and contemporary movers-and-shakers who are coming back in droves, eager to see what Chris D’Ambro and Marina De Oliveira have in store for this 4th Street legend. It was originally owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Kip and Sheri Waide, a duo that helped to establish the modern cocktail scene in the city of brotherly love.
2006 Chestnut St (Rittenhouse Square) // 1tpl.com
A departure from the speakeasy and themed cocktail bars that dominate many major cities, 1 Tippling Place offers patrons a unique experience where they can mingle with one another in either the large, well-equipped bar or the cozy nooks of Philadelphia antique charm, while sipping on expertly-made classic and contemporary cocktails. Owner Anne Frey and mixologist Myles Carroll have put together a massive 13-drink seasonal menu for spring which matches their equally impressive list of classic recipes.
135 S 18th St (Rittenhouse Square) // www.akitchenandbar.com
a.bar, the imbibing-focused half of the fine dining stalwart a.kitchen+a.bar, has a laudable cocktail program that delivers one of Philly’s most creative seasonal cocktail menus. Chef Eli Kulp and Ellen Yin of High Street Hospitality Group have collaborated to deliver a wonderful spring menu that features an abundance of fresh flavors and ingredients like Lemon-Coriander Shrub and Myrtle Berry Liqueur. These sweet notes are further balanced with spirit-forward drinks like the “Message in a Bottle,” made with Fighting Cock Bourbon, Dolin Blanc vermouth, Breckenridge Bitters and a Green Chartreuse rinse.
1602 Locust St (Rittenhouse Square) // www.tequilasphilly.com
Tequilas is an upscale Mexican restaurant with an extensive selection of highland and lowland tequilas and mezcals, which mixologists Junior Moreno and Phil Ward use to assemble world-class cocktails. One of our favorites, the Alma Blanca, uses Siembre Azul Blanco Tequila that has been expertly infused with habanero, muddled corn, pineapple and herbs. The restaurant’s stunning decor features murals that recreate the artwork of Jose Guadalupe Posada, one of Mexico’s finest artists, and were painted by the artist’s grandson himself. The murals represent figures in the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and depict the struggle of the people against a repressive dictatorship.
339 N 11th St (Callowhill) // www.thetrestleinn.com
An out-of-the-way favorite of Philadelphia’s seedier side for over 100 years, this hidden gem of a destination sits in the shadow of the Reading Railroad viaduct and is reinvigorating the city’s bar scene by paying homage to the go-go and mod scenes of ’60s and ’70s. Wednesday through Saturday nights feature go-go dancers shaking to old-school love songs and dance ballads, while the staff serves up craft beer as well as amazing (and amazingly cheap) cocktails, including one of the better Caipirinhas you will likely ever try outside of Brazil.
56 S 2nd St (Old City) // khyberpasspub.com
Khyber Pass Pub may look like just another Philadelphia brew pub, but the team behind the bar of this 2nd Street standout can shake or stir up some of the best classic cocktails you’ll to find in the city. Khyber Pass Pub also has some amazing popcorn, a Philadelphia standard that gets dressed up here with deliciously over-the-top cajun seasoning.
541 E Girard Ave (Fishtown) // www.kraftworkbar.com
Fishtown’s favorite beer bar, Kraftwork, is quite possibly the best place to grab a pint and a burger anywhere in Philadelphia. Kraftwork specializes in (you guessed it) craft beer, with nearly 20 taps pouring suds from small-batch breweries all across America and around the globe. Kraftwork has a rowdy cocktail menu as well that focuses mostly on classic, Philadelphia-inspired drink variations. Their weekday happy hour, the Lucky 7, features $7 flights of any 4 beers on tap, $7 cocktails, and several food items on their menu for $7.
129 W Laurel St (Northern Liberties) // www.jerrysbarphilly.com
Exposed brick and and white penny tile accompany a strong menu of well-made cocktails and a great beer selection at Jerry’s Bar in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. Owner Bill Proud has brought in former Cafe Estelle owner Marshall Green to oversee the kitchen to praiseworthy effect. They have given Philadelphia one of its most unique bar menus, which includes a breadth of options from pierogi to squid ink pasta. Jerry’s brunch menu is always a treat as well, whether you’re in the mood for a Bloody or some killer scrapple.
Feature Photo:Rdsmith4 via Wikimedia Commons