You Should Drink Here (#YSDH) is where I write about cocktail bars that you should, you know, drink at. It means I’ve visited the bar 3 or 4 times and sampled most if not all the drinks, so you can be pretty confident it’s legit.
I’ve been a Philly resident for almost four months now, and one thing is abundantly clear: there’s too damn much good food here. Everywhere you turn, there’s some decades-old joint serving up the best carbs/meats/cheese/vegetables/pastries/whatever on the eastern seaboard, cash-only. Quality calories are ubiquitous here, a simple fact of everyday life.
So, amongst these high-profile riches, it’s easy to miss quiet, quality neighborhood places that get it done, year in year out. We stumbled upon Southwark by accident, it being across the street from the legendary Famous 4th Street Deli (which is divine, gaze in awe at this black and white cookie). Southwark’s white brick edifice is subdued, but its aggressive approach to cocktails sings out when you scan the lengthy list. Southwark really, really cares about drinks, which isn’t always the case at restaurants. So, I felt compelled to say – you should drink here!
What’s the vibe?
Southwark presents a bit formal. But don’t be fooled by the ol’ girl’s dark wood and antique furnishings, it’s a laid-back spot, especially as the sun goes down. The bar space fills up with lively locals both young and old, making for a convivial and diverse scene in the low light. Sort of the perfect environment to drink lots of cocktails in, contemplatively.
I’m intrigued. Tell me about the drinks.
Southwark’s cocktail list was surprisingly sophisticated for a local spot, folding in enough exotic ingredients to satisfy all palettes and moods. Southwark to its credit changes up their list fairly frequently, so you’ll get plenty of new drinks if you make repeat visits. On the lighter side, the “Get Off Your Horse” with rum punch and grapefruit is relaxed perfection, and “No You Were Spectacular” with rum and lime was a sweet surprise. “If You Could Return,” “Until the Day is Dawning (spicy!),” “Stop Flying in the House,” and the happy hour “Snaquiri” were all standouts. If you’re looking for some more power on your tongue, “What Do Witches Do?” with gin and amaro in a slow, resonant sipper, while “Giulia Is Like Oscar Wilde” with bourbon and burnt orange is a great evening ender, warm and resonant. Every drink, even the ones I didn’t particularly like, displayed real complexity and thoughtfulness.
Odds and ends.
Southwark’s bartenders were always on point, proud of the drinks and quick with the shakers. Never felt pressured, always felt taken care of. Also wanted to point out the range of music I’ve heard there. Ragtime, 60s-70s standards, and 90s jams, it’s all been piped through Southwark, subtly pumping up the goings-ons.
Wrap it up already!
Southwark is a great venue for casual liaisons of all kinds, and a good spot to push your cocktail tastes. It’s important to support venues that put real heart, money, and time into their cocktails, so put it on your list of must-drink (or eat, if that’s your thing)-at-places.