The Best Places to Grab a Drink in Philadelphia

Freshly squeezed juices make appearances in the cocktails at Charlie was a sinner. in Midtown Village | Credit: Charlie was a sinner.

Philadelphia’s bar scene pulses with the same eclectic energy that defines its restaurants. In every neighborhood, you’ll find spots that reflect the people who live, work, and drink there. Some embrace the city’s signature blue collar ethos while others offer glamorous settings—and even higher-end spirits. Many are attached to restaurant kitchens that turn out the kind of top-notch food that put Philadelphia on the culinary map. The city’s drinking dens have you covered, whether your tastes skew classic or trendy, whiskey or vodka, domestic or imported. Grab a friend—plus a barstool—and explore this town by way of its best watering holes.

JG SkyHigh (Center City)

JG SkyHigh, part of celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s vast restaurant empire, is an impressive place to take someone out for drinks. To get here, visitors are whisked up to the top of the Four Seasons Hotel in a transparent elevator. The bar’s floor-to-ceiling windows keep the glamorous cityscape front and center, but if you’d rather not sit at the bar itself, elegant lounge seating, in muted colors, is available. Drinks include sparkling, red, and white wines by the glass; cocktails are classic but contemporary, such as a Collins made with lemongrass-infused gin and lemongrass tea. Don’t miss the food, whether you order something from the full menu, such as a peekytoe crab risotto, or a smaller dish, like the famous egg toast and caviar.

Palizzi Social Club (East Passyunk)

When it was first opened in 1918, Palizzi Social Club was a members-only hangout for Philadelphia’s Italian American community. Today, it’s home to some of the city’s most coveted barstools, thanks to its retro clubhouse vibes and inventive cocktails, showcasing Italian tipples such as grappa and fernet. The spot remains members-only (though members can bring friends); guests must follow rules including a dress code—no sweatpants or flip flops—and no photos or social media tags. You’ll almost certainly need to stand in line to get in, but it’s worth the wait.     

Charlie was a sinner. (Midtown Village)

The intimate interiors at Charlie was a Sinner. | Credit: Charlie was a Sinner.

This narrow space on 13th Street has an intimate vibe, with plush seating and low lights that make it ideal for date nights and other cozy one-on-one occasions. The drinks menu is extensive, and the bartenders are equally skilled at mixing classic cocktails and more creative drinks. Freshly squeezed juices and house-infused spirits make the bar a standout. The zero-proof cocktails—try the Spicy Pineapple, laced with a special house spice blend— get no less attention than the rest of the drinks menu. The fully plant-based menu has plenty of smaller snacks, such as caramelized eggplant bao buns and zucchini “crab cake” sliders, that are perfect for sharing plus more substantial plates, like roasted cauliflower steak and silken tofu and mushroom ramen, for when the occasional calls.

Barclay Prime (Rittenhouse)

This Rittenhouse steakhouse’s bar and lounge is set off from its dining room, with a distinct atmosphere, thanks to moody, wood-paneled walls and a black-and-white checkered floor. This is the ideal place to sip classic cocktails; take a look at the excellent wine list if you plan to order steak and want the perfect red pairing. If you’re feeling especially flush, splurge on Barclay Prime’s famous luxe $140 cheesesteak with wagyu, foie gras, and truffled cheese—it also comes with a half bottle of Champagne. 

Mei Mei (Old City)

Lavender lights fuel the moody vibes at Mei Mei | Credit: Mei Mei

This two-story pan Asian restaurant and bar sets the scene for a big night out. Its creative food menu is appealing, as is its basement lounge. The space is lined with plush banquettes and lit with ample candles and lavender lighting, boasting one of the neighborhood’s best happy hours. On Tuesdays and Fridays from 4 to 6 pm, order a signature cocktail—such as a fresh daiquiri with house-made ginger syrup—for $7. There’s also a section of reasonably priced wine and beer. Happy hour snacks include craveable snacks such as salt and pepper chicken bites served with house pickles and shrimp bao buns.

Tria Rittenhouse (Rittenhouse)

Since 2004, Tria has showcased one of the most impressive and interesting wine lists in the city–and fortunately, it never takes itself too seriously. Servers are well educated about everything they pour and they’ll always answer questions happily. If you don’t know what to choose from a wine list organized into categories like “stimulating” and “pretty,” don’t be afraid to ask. In addition to wine, you’ll find plenty of excellent beers, ciders, and cocktails. Beyond cheese, the menu offers snacks, salads, and sandwiches, too.

SOUTH Restaurant & Jazz Club (Center City)

The bar at SOUTH Restaurant & Jazz Club | Credit: SOUTH Restaurant & Jazz Club

This Broad Street spot brings a restaurant, bar, and music venue together under one lively roof. The cocktail list puts twists on the classics with options including a spicy mango-habanero margarita and a mojito mixed with sweet tea. Wine lovers will appreciate the thoughtful and lengthy wine list. The Southern-inspired food menu features plenty of hearty options such as creole deviled eggs, shrimp and grits, and buttermilk fried chicken. If you’re looking for a bar to visit after dinner, South is a terrific spot to enjoy a little something sweet with a wide selection of nighttime drinks, such as brandy and cordials.   

Time (Midtown Village)

If your ideal night out features entertainment, this Midtown Village haunt is your spot. There’s a ground floor bar with a healthy selection of craft beers, wine, and cocktails. From here, you can take in the live music that’s performed by a range of bands as well as periodic open mic nights. Downstairs, you’ll find a whiskey bar for sipping spirits in a candlelit, wood-paneled refuge. On weekend nights, the top floor hosts a dance party: DJs and drinks combine to create a French nightclub atmosphere. The popular happy hour runs Sunday through Friday from 5 to 7 pm with discounted cocktails and wines, plus a selection of small bites such as mussels and deviled eggs.

Amada PHL (Old City)

Sangria at Amada PHL | Credit: Amada PHL

Jamóns dangle over a gleaming meat slicer at one end of Amada’s lively bar, waiting to be sliced onto one the restaurant’s signature charcuterie plates. Wine barrels are displayed behind the bar. This iconic Old City tapas spot has drawn crowds for tapas and sangria since opening in 2005, and its boisterous atmosphere fuels much of the appeal. The Spanish wines are reliably great, but for something a little different, consider ordering from the gin tonic bar—or opt for a glass of sherry. By design, the entire tapas menu is sharable and good with drinks, but garlic shrimp, ham croquettes, and charcuterie plates are must-orders.

The Butcher Bar (Center City)

This meat-centric Rittenhouse spot is helmed by the owners behind another rustic Philly hotspot, Mercato. Traditional bar snacks, such as jerky and wings, are treated to gourmet makeovers and pair perfectly with the whiskey-based cocktails and 16 beers on tap (draft wines are also available). It’s a laid-back setting for a weeknight hang—rare in this pocket of town. If drinks become dinner, rest assured, there are heartier plates to dig into, such as grilled Korean short ribs and rotisserie game hen. 

Tattooed Mom (South Street)

The colorful entrance to Tattooed Mom | Credit: Tattoeed Mom

Tattooed Mom, a South Street staple since 1997, is one of Philadelphia’s most legendary places to grab a drink. The graffiti-heavy spot is considered the city’s unofficial street art museum, and visiting artists have been known to leave marks. The drinks menu, featuring signature cocktails and local craft beers, isn’t particularly fancy though the bar food is hearty. Tattooed Mom is beloved for its wide selection of vegan snacks and sandwiches, including an especially delicious spin on the Philly cheesesteak.

Hop Sing Laundromat (Chinatown)

Hop Sing Laundromat opened to great fanfare in 2012, and the swanky cocktail lounge has never lost its allure. Operated by , a one-named proprietor who has cultivated an air of mystery, the bar requires visitors to ring the bell at an unmarked door, then listen to a short recitation of the house rules (no photos, no phones) in the antechamber. They’re then ushered into a dimly lit, rococo-style room. The reward is a cocktail list made from a huge “library” of high-end spirits. Though there is no food menu, drinks here deliver both outstanding flavors and a high-proof punch.

Joy Manning is a food writer, recipe developer, and podcaster based in Philadelphia. 

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