As Grub Street’s “Cocktail Country” slideshow demonstrated yesterday, our national drinking culture has come a long way in recent years. Creative and enterprising bartenders from coast to coast are abandoning cloying-sweet sugary infusions for purer, more sophisticated concoctions that rely on primo booze, and fresh, sometimes unexpected mixers. And along the way they are also putting to rest the mustaches, sleeve garters and other put-ons that dominated the Prohibition-era revival of a few years ago. Today, we turn our attention back to Philly, where there’s no shortage of quality options for awesome cocktails. Check out what we think are the ten best being shaken, stirred and poured right now.
Amada (Old City and Atlantic City)
Iron Chef Jose Garces’ crack crew of cocktail experts recently came up with this refreshing, herbaceous and slightly spicy concoction for springtime. It combines basil-infused tequila, chili simple syrup, and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, shaken, strained, and served up with a leaf of fresh basil floated on top.
Stephen Starr’s posh steakhouse on Rittenhouse Square looked to spring and summer fashions for inspiration for this breezy, bright and floral gin-based drink. It’s made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, ginger beer, fresh mint, lemon and St. Germain.
Cedar Point Bar and Kitchen
Just when you thought the most ubiquitous cocktail and its millions of iterations could neither shake nor stir you from rolling your eyes upon hearing just the suffix “tini,” this Fishtown newcomer comes up with a very vegetal take on it. Housemade kale juice gets thrown into the mix of Beefeater, St. Germain, and simple syrup.
With their latest menu update, barkeeps Phoebe Esmon and Christian Gaal put a polished, and more sophisticated spin on the commonplace Cosmo, replacing the triple sec with curacao, and the cranberry juice with housemade cranberry gastrique.
Bar manager Guy Smith plays it a little loosey-goosey with Fork’s cocktails, filing drinks under nebulous headings like “Bubbly” and “Spirituous” on the menu, and tweaking them to order per each guests individual tastes. This one from “Citrus-Based” starts with bourbon, Fernet Branca, mint, grapefruit and Peychaud’s bitters. The rest is up to you.
Fancy Rye Cocktail
Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.
Head bartender Al Sotack celebrates Franklin Mortgage’s tony locale with a “fancy” elixir whose base liquor takes its name from the same Center City neighborhood. It’s a mix of Rittenhouse Rye and Grand Marnier with cane syrup, Angostura and Jerry Thomas bitters, and served on a rock.
Michael Schulson and Rob Wasserman’s suburban outpost just updated its selection of cocktails for spring. This fresh and fruity take on the classic Margarita takes on an added herbaceousness with just-picked basil mixed in with real strawberries and tequila.
Mexican Wild Fire
Smoke, sweetness, booze and heat all come together in this new one from G-Ho’s SoWe. It’s made with Herradura Reposado Tequila, Chambord, honey, and spices.
The Captain’s Wife’s Lament
For her latest update at Square 1682, Chauncey Jane Scates charts a course through “bitter, tropical, sophisticated Tiki” territory with the Captain’s Wife’s Lament. Its made with 10 Cane Rum, Punt E Mes, ginger, pineapple, lemon juice, and aromatic bitters.
To keep pace with chef Greg Vernick’s seasonal menu switch-ups, bar manager Vincent Stipo is almost constantly making changes to the Rittenhouse restaurant’s cocktail offerings. With the latest update, he presents the Seymour, which is composed with Rittenhouse Rye, Campari, carpano antica vermouth, apricot, and garnished with lemon oil.