Philly has a well-earned rep for being a more laidback East Coast city (at least when our sports fans aren’t taking over Broad Street). But there’s more to our casual demeanor -- even though we have the dive bars to back it up. Bar hoppers in search for more than a citywide and a sweatpants-is-fine dress code have much to revel in throughout the city’s cocktail bar scene.
From cozy reinvented speakeasies to subterranean retreats to lux distilleries, we have a little bit of everything, plus the expert cocktail artists to match. Take a look at our nine favorite cocktail bars in Philly and get ready to dress up.
Acquired Taste: Blood Rice Cakes With Timothy DeLaGhetto and Justina Valentine
Chinatown For high-quality cocktails without the tight corners and Instagram-thirsty customers, Hop Sing Laundromat delivers with creative drinks and a strict no-phone policy. In fact, just as strong as the drinks are the list of rules to follow once you step inside. Make sure to be in the right attire, turn off your phone, and don’t get into an altercation about the wait time unless you’re okay with being forever on the banned list.
Gayborhood This dimly lit, super romantic vegan spot doubles as a destination for killer cocktails. Grab one of the little tables by the bar for well-made classics, as well as experimental originals and a handful of alcohol-free softer sips. Get the true experience with a wheatgrass shot infused with Genepy des Alpes.
Rittenhouse The ambiance is on full blast at this Rittenhouse Hotel hideaway, where you can curl up by the fire or settle in at one of the bright yellow tufted seats. Many of the city’s top bartenders have found a home here, while others from outside Philly intermittently strike up a residency. Hard-to-find liquors and fancy-pants surroundings make this one for the cocktail bar bucket list.
Rittenhouse 1 Tippling Place serves expertly (and theatrically) crafted cocktails with extra flair that make the place irresistible. While not exactly a speakeasy, the unassuming entrance and overall vibe is definitely that of a hush-hush secret club. Find your seat on some vintage furniture or take over the corner with your crew so you can start sifting through the endless menu of cocktails.
Rittenhouse Through the kitchen at El Rey (or simply down the narrow street where the bar gets its name), enter this reimagined speakeasy, which almost always has a waitlist. Once you’re inside, though, you’ll under why: Everyone has a seat, you can stay as long as you like, and nobody will rush you along to finish up. The moody bar is decked with boudoir wallpaper and fleshy paintings that add to the ambiance.
Rittenhouse Yet another hidden speakeasy in Philly, The Franklin Bar serves strong cocktails in what feels like your personal escape. Head downstairs at the entrance on 18th Street (next to Byblos and usually marked by a bouncer outside) and enter the subterranean traditional cocktail bar where the absinthe is a-flowin’. On the upper level, you’ll find Encima, giving off a totally different experience with Mexican street food and so much tequila.
Gayborhood This multi-level bar/lounge hybrid space fits whatever you’re looking to do, complete with highly Instagrammable library-themed wallpaper for the literary nerds among us. It also helps that all the cocktails and softer sips have names influenced by works in the art world, each menu becoming a game to decipher every reference.
Northern Liberties As one of the longest running distilleries in the city, Philadelphia Distilling is home to a collection of locally made spirits including Bluecoat Gin. With a wide collection of liquors to its name, the cocktails are unsurprisingly amazing here. (The distillery makes a mean Negroni.) The airy bar space is set up for lounging and mingling over Pennsylvania Punch.
Wharton Irwin’s is home to one of the best views in Philly, seated on the eight floor of South Philly’s Bok Building. Unlike Bok Bar, the rooftop where you can get an amazing view of the city during warm months, Irwin’s stays open all year -- along with its lovely deck. Stop by for bourbon-based drinks and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
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Marielle Mondon is a writer from Philadelphia. Follow her at @MarielleMondon on Twitter and Instagram.