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10 Hottest New Bars in Philadelphia

By Danya Henninger
March 19, 2014

Philly’s beer scene is recognized as one of the best in the nation, but our cocktail game is catching up. Need proof? Flip through the 10 hottest newcomers on the bar front and make note of how many are shaking up interesting sips to go with their great craft-draft selections. Drinks are looking up.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Cook and Shaker

    Why It's Hot: As Fishtown bars and restaurants edge north and east, this pub stakes out new ground on the Kensington side, bringing craft beer and upscale (but inexpensive) cocktails to the quiet, residential neighborhood. A bit of pressed tin on the ceiling and a scattering of exposed brick on the walls give the bar an inviting vibe, despite - or because of - its small size.

    Must Drink: Olde Richmond Punch (Old Overholt rye, lemon, honey, rosemary; $8), Philly Aviation (Bluecoat gin, lemon, Maraschino, crème de violette; $8)

    Insider Tip: The kitchen puts out some of the more satisfying vegetarian bar food in the city, so next time your meatless friends want to go out drinking, take them to the corner of Tulip and Albert.

    2301 E. Albert St.; 215-426-2665

  • Tria Taproom

    Why It's Hot: There’s not a bottle in sight at Jon Myerow and Michael McCauley's full-kitchen sibling to their two wine bars - here, wine, sherry, beer and cider all flow from the state-of-the-art 40-tap draft system. A sleek interior with marble, whitewashed brick and leather stools - not to mention a full kitchen - catapult this Rittenhouse addition to the front of the Tria pack.

    Must Drink: Draft wine, draft cider, Sprecher Orange Dream soda

    Insider Tip: Pull up the beverage menu on provided iPads or your own smartphone to check exactly how much is left in each keg or sixtel in real time.

    2005 Walnut St.; 215-557-8277

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    The Gaslight

    Why It's Hot: When longtime Rittenhouse dance club Alfa closed its doors, the crack bar team needed a new spot to call home... and this Jason Cichonski revamp of an Old City pub is where they ended up. Brick walls and wood-slab tables complement the well-stocked bars, and the atmosphere is cheerily sunshine-filled during brunch but sexily sultry - with lights fashioned after gas lamps - at night.

    Must Drink: Big Brown (Bulleit bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth; $10), Hello Kitty (strawberry-and-green-tea-infused lychee martini; $10), The Jawn (port-barrel-aged bourbon, Carpano Antica, green chartreuse; $10)

    Insider Tip: If there’s a crowd, make your way to the back bar so you’ll have room to enjoy the great selection of bar snacks - don’t miss the foie gras crostini or whiskey-caramel-mustard wings.

    120 Market St.; 215-925-7691

  • Bourbon and Branch

    Why It's Hot: New proprietors transformed this tired NoLibs tavern into a whiskey-focused hipster hang, complete with mason-jar lamps and deep-maroon walls. Live indie music shows every weekend have brought new crowds flooding in.

    Must Drink: Flaming Ricky (lavender-cardamom gin, St. Germain, lime, flambéed cherries; $13), Sazerac (Bulleit rye, Vieux Carré absinthe, simple syrup; $10), Broken Chandelier (Bluecoat gin, St. Germain, cilantro, cucumber; $10)

    Insider Tip: Back up your cocktails with a selection from the “Pie” menu. This isn’t dessert - we’re talking shepherd’s pie, tomato pie, mushroom pie and “4 Pigs” pie with sausage, pork belly, bacon and smoked pork.

    705 N. Second St.; 215-238-0660

  • Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery

    Why It's Hot: Erin Wallace brought former Dock Street brewer Scott Morrison on board to retrofit the General Lafayette Inn into a brewpub making cutting-edge beers. The atmosphere keeps just enough of the historic building to make the bar an immediate favorite among locals and craft beer destination seekers alike.

    Must Drink: Barren Hill Farmhouse Pale Ale ($5), Barren Hill Down Under Triple ($5), Barren Hill Chinhook Belgian IPA ($5.50)

    Insider Tip: Despite an impressive rotating list of house beers, the guest beer lineup is also strong, so look here for rare crafts from around the country.

    646 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill; 484-344-5438

  • Tap Room on 19th Street

    Why It's Hot: Deep South Philly never before had access to a craft beer list like this, but cocktails are also a good bet - as befits an off-the-beaten-path neighborhood, prices start at just $4. The revamp of the former shot-and-beer bar left just enough dark wood and brass fixtures to make the bar feel a bit like the Union League of the less opulent, more down-to-earth set.

    Must Drink: Cider Jawn (hot spiced apple cider, bourbon; $4), California Love (tequila, honey, lime, spice; $7), Elysian Split Shot Espresso Stout on nitro ($6.50)

    Insider Tip: Chef Jennifer Choplin is putting out bar food as brilliant as the beer selection, so bring your hunger as well as your thirst.

    2400 S. 19th St.; 267-687-7817

  • Headhouse Crab & Oyster Co.

    Why It's Hot: Drinks expert and author Katie Loeb is holding it down behind the stick at this seafooder at the east edge of South Street, so you can expect top-notch cocktails made with house shrubs, infusions, syrups and bitters. Whether at the large and curvy glossed wood bar or at the picnic tables on the semi-open patio, a visit here makes for an easy escape.

    Must Drink: Drake Hotel Manhattan (Woodford Reserve, ruby port, maple, bitters; $13), Smokin’ Mary (Svedka, house Bloody mix, smoked veggies; $9), oyster shooters ($6)

    Insider Tip: Buck-a-shucks are offered during happy hour every day of the week (expect Mondays, when it's closed), along with seriously discounted beers, wine and cocktails.

    119 South St.; 215-418-0600

  • The Bar at Avance

    Why It's Hot: Below the muted gray elegance of Justin Bogle’s new dining room is this much more decadent-feeling bar, but the cocktails served here strive for the same combination as the upstairs food - unique approaches that result in satisfying flavors. Gorgeous slabs of 150-year-old walnut - polished on top but with natural edges - make the high-top banquettes just as inviting as the comfortable stools at the bar. 

    Must Drink: Johnny Utah (bourbon, Amontillado sherry, three-pepper tincture, Herbsaint mist; $14), Run ‘n’ Gun (bourbon, smoked maple, Zucca Rabarbaro, Antica vermouth, dry vermouth; $14), Blood and Sand (blood orange, blended scotch, Cherry Heering, Antica vermouth; $13)

    Insider Tip: The fact that everyone’s raving about the Border Springs lamb burger doesn’t make it any less amazing. It’s not available upstairs, so when you’re at the bar, get it - you won’t regret it.

    1523 Walnut St.; 215-405-0700

  • Madira Bar & Grill

    Why It's Hot: From the outside, you would never guess this Point Breeze corner is home to a bottle shop offering 400 craft beers to go, plus two bars at which to drink them if you stay. The long, first-floor bar has a good view of the well-stocked beer coolers, while upstairs a dining room with tables abuts the drinks counter.

    Must Drink: Gujarap Elixir (pepper vodka, Indian-spiced Bloody Mary mix; $7), Chai Honey Old Fashioned ($7), Yards Pale Ale ($3)

    Insider Tip: Look for a new chef starting soon, but for now, skip the regular pub fare and go for their more exotic cousins - think masala wings, samosas and Indian-spiced burgers.

    1252 S. 21st St.; 215-551-0107

  • Sutton’s Parlor

    Why It's Hot: This speakeasy-style bar has real cred - several of the people involved have tried in the past to make their own booze - and an official distilling license is on the way. Meanwhile, it’s a new Rittenhouse destination for hand-chipped ice and serious cocktails. A copper-top bar and plenty of candlelight complete the sultry vibe. 

    Must Drink: Chartreuse Gimlet (Heyman’s Old Tom gin, green and yellow chartreuse, lime, cucumber, mint; $15), Fetzer Spritz (Plymouth gin, lemon, Aperol, housemade strawberry-chocolate jam; $15), M-Cocktail (Laird’s apple brandy, Ramazzotti, Benedictine, Laphroaig 10, served in a smoked glass; $16)

    Insider Tip: Happy hour here is dedicated to La Fée Verte, with $7 absinthe cocktails paired with $1 oysters. If you work up a bigger appetite, go for the “parlor service” $45 four-course prix fixe.

    40 S. 19th St.; 215-800-1217

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Places Mentioned

Tria Taproom

Wine Bar • Rittenhouse Square

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery

Brewpub • Lafayette Hill

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Avance

New American • Rittenhouse Square

Food- Decor- Service- CostVE
 
 
 
The Gaslight

American • Old City

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
 
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