Gin is a go-to favorite liquor for mixed drinks. It’s a juniper-based clear spirit that pairs well with herbs and fruits, yet it’s neutral enough to combine with other more complex liquors. And as the temperatures rise, gin is perfect for refreshing cocktails that you’ll want to sip on beautiful spring days. These Philadelphia spots go beyond the traditional martini or gin and tonic, offering innovative cocktails with a gin focus.
1623 Sansom St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Abe Fisher opened in the fall of 2014 as the newest spot from CookNSolo Restaurants, the team that gave Philadelphia Percy Street Barbecue, Zahav and Dizen Goff. Co-chefs Michael Solomonov and Yehuda Sichel draw inspiration from the Jewish diaspora to create their menu of small plates. And the drink menu from CookNSolo Beverage Director Brian Kane has been developed to pair with the cuisine. The signature drink at Abe Fisher is aptly named “The Abe Fisher Cocktail,” and it’s a reinterpretation of the dirty martini. Abe Fisher creates its own dill pickle brine using white wine vinegar, sugar, fresh dill, mustard seed, garlic and coriander. That infuses for about one week, and then it’s combined with Beefeater 24 (a traditional dry London gin with green tea added to the botanicals) and Dolin dry vermouth. It’s stirred over ice before being served. According to Brian Kane, “The Beefeater 24 has a strong citrus component. Citrus with pickle is a genius, classic combination. This martini is dry but flavorful, and isn’t just salty like dome dirty martinis.”
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110 S. 13th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Barbuzzo is a popular Midtown Village spot from Valerie Safran and Chef Marcie Turney, the duo that has brought Philadelphis Lolita, Little Nonna’s and Jamonera. At this Mediterranean kitchen and bar, you’ll find favorites like Neopolitan-style pizzas, sheep’s milk ricotta, fontina-stuffed meatballs and the well-known salted caramel budino. Reservations are recommended, but you’re always welcome to walk in and try to grab a spot at the bar. While you’re there, try the “Cetriolo Rosso” – a $12 cocktail made with Bluecoat gin, muddled cucumber, Campari liqueur and tonic.
120 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Chef Jason Cichonski has an impressive culinary resume including serving as the executive chef at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse Hotel at the young age of 24. He has continued to impress with his Queen Village spot, Ela, and as a contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef.” At his Old City bar and restaurant, The Gaslight, Cichonski departs from his repertoire of refined fare to offer relaxed bar comfort food made with high-quality ingredients. The drink menu features a rotating selection of craft beers with 18 tap handles, a variety of wines, and a cocktail list of house specialties and favorite classics like the “Bebbo.” The Bebbo is a spinoff from the 1920s drink “The Bee’s Knees,” starting with the same basic ingredients but adding orange to the mix of Bluecoat Gin, lemon, and honey. It’s on the sweet side but it’s balanced with the tart citrus flavors.
1310 Frankford Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19125
Kensington Quarters is a unique Fishtown spot combining a butcher shop, bar, restaurant and classroom space. The upstairs loft hosts butchering lessons and guest lectures, and drinks and food are served below. Chef Damon Menapace has put together a menu of small plates, pastas, entrees and dessert using fresh local ingredients free from pesticides, steroids and antibiotics. The drink menu consists of draft beers, tap and bottled wine and cocktails. General Manager Nicole Sullivan has created the “Wishbone.” For $13, it’s a light and refreshing gin cocktail made with Death’s Door Gin, Dolin Blanc, Prosecco and lemon.
50 S. 16th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
With panoramic views 37 floors (that’s 500 feet) above the city, R2L is an obvious choice for impressive atmosphere. Dinner in a booth by a window is sure to be spectacular, but the bar and lounge area is also a stylish spot to meet with friends, coworkers or a date. Visit during happy hour Monday through Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to enjoy discounted snacks such as chilled oysters, sliders (plain, skate or shortrib) and grilled truffle flatbread. While the “Free Love” cocktail isn’t one of the happy hour specials, it’s worth the $15 splurge. Served chilled in a martini glass, Free Love is made with Oxley Gin, Pernod, vanilla syrup, espresso and fresh cream. It’s as smooth as it sounds, with hints of nutmeg, vanilla and anise flavors. Espresso gives it a little extra kick.
1516 South St.
Philadelphia, PA 19146
A sister restaurant to South Street’s Jet Wine Bar, Rex 1516 is a small yet stylish spot offering updated Southern cuisine from Chef Justin Swain. The decor sets the mood for the menu, with much of the furnishings made from repurposed pieces from old churches and mansions – including the impressive Frank Furness bar from the Victorian era. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a Southern-inspired cocktail like the “Gins & Roses Remix.” Made with Bluecoat Gin, rose liqueur, lemon, Amaro Montenegro liqueur and rose tincture, the $11 drink has an interesting story of its own. The original “Gins & Roses” cocktail was developed in May of 2014 as part of a partnership with Philadelphia’s Bluecoat gin. Bluecoat donated the product, and Rex 1516 donated the proceeds from the cocktail sales to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society on behalf of Brian Lipstein for his Man of the Year campaign. Rex 1516’s General Manager and Mixologist, Heather Rodkey, loved the drink so much that she decided to make a few adaptations (the original featured watermelon as well as a few other different ingredients) and added her “remix” version to the menu permanently.
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521 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Juniper Commons is Kevin Sbraga’s third restaurant, and it’s his biggest space yet. Drawing inspiration from the 1980s, the menu features throwback classics like crab cakes, prime rib and tableside-prepped Caesar salad, with the precise execution of a Top Chef. And you can look forward to an 80s soundtrack to match. Juniper is a key ingredient in gin, so it’s no surprise that General Manager and Beverage Director Tom Pittakas has put together a drink list largely focused on the restaurant’s namesake. The bar stocks over 150 gins and offers a cocktail menu focused entirely on 80s-style favorites but with a gin-centric twist. Just one of the ten currently available, “Sand in Your Shorts” is a spin on the traditional “Sex on the Beach” made with Death’s Door gin, peach, cranberry and orange for $10.
Michelle Hein is the social media editor for a women’s fashion company in Bucks County by day and a self-proclaimed food and drink fanatic by night and weekend. She enjoys attending wine classes, trying new recipes in the kitchen and going to old favorites and new restaurants alike in the Bucks County and Philadelphia area. If the writing gig doesn’t pan out, she constantly dreams of owning her own bakery…perhaps connected to the restaurant/bar that her lawyer husband would love to open.