Treating yourself to an alcoholic beverage or two after a long day is all fine and dandy, but what about those particularly shitty (or joyous) times when a buzz simply isn’t enough? While we here at PW encourage you to drink responsibly, we also believe in drinking effectively. Rather than shelling out cash for cocktail after cocktail, beer after beer, here’s a list of six potent libations guaranteed to get you plastered faster, put hair on your chest, make the room spin and kick your liver in the balls.
Proceed with caution.
Flaming Volcano, $16
Vietnam Restaurant, 221 N. 11th St. 215.592.1163; Vietnam Cafe, 816 S. 47th St. 215.729.0260. eatatvietnam.com
Deemed “The Fantastic Drink for Passion Lovers,” this volcanic concoction will transport you to an exotic Hawaiian island almost as fast as it’ll take you under the table. It’s served in a special, tiki-esque ceramic bowl designed to create the illusion of an active volcano sitting in the middle of an ocean. The “volcano” is a rising central hub with a small crater, which is filled with high-alcohol liquor and ignited. The roughly 32 ounces of pink liquid making up the “ocean” is a mix of delicious, nondescript fruit juice and six different liquors: rum, vodka, gin, brandy and Bacardi 151. Two umbrellas and a maraschino cherry kabob complete the extravagant presentation. According to the waitress, despite the restaurant’s wide selection of signature martinis and other festive mixed drinks, the volcano has become one of their most popular cocktails. “They think it’s the only drink in the world,” she laughs. Although intended for two people, she adds that plenty have attempted to conquer an entire volcano all by themselves. “But only if they’re crazy.”
Southwark Cocktail, $16
Southwark, 701 S. Fourth St. southwarkrestaurant.com
With such an impressive selection of badass cocktails, it’s no surprise that the most badass of them all would be named after the South Philly bar/bistro itself. Served in a martini glass with an orange peel, it doesn’t look as intimidating as you might expect. But don’t be fooled. Inside that seemingly effeminate eight-ounce glass is a hardy, old-fashioned mixture, carefully crafted for the pallet and stomach of a gentleman: Meletti Amaro, Ben Franklin Madeira and Willett single barrel rye. Remove the fancy names and basically you’re left with an aromatic after-dinner liqueur, a sweet wine (the Founding Fathers’ drink of choice) and whiskey. If you require mixers or chasers, then you’re in the wrong bar—these barkeeps don’t mess around. “I’ll talk someone into ordering water before I’ll serve them a watered down drink,” bartender Paul Dellavigne says. With orange, ginger ale and port wine, their Philadelphian cocktail is a much smoother alternative. Yet, the 100-proof Laird’s Apple Brandy will keep you just as wobbly.
Percy Street Barbecue, 900 South St. percystreet.com
Meticulously prepared and strained several times over crushed ice, Sazeroot is essentially the old-fashioned whiskey cocktail Sazerac (aka the official cocktail of choice in New Orleans), but with a Philly twist—Art in the Age’s organic root beer-like spirit, Root. First brewed as an herbal remedy by the Native Americans, Root is an intense blend of wild herbs and spices including everything from birch bark and smoked black tea to nutmeg and cinnamon. “It’s really overpowering,” Percy bartender Paul Strubeck says. Luckily, the Root is only used as a rinse. Add any more to this already potent mix of absinthe and rye and this drink would be downright lethal. Don’t worry—the burning sensation in your throat should subside after the first few sips. If not, consider ordering a glass of their Hillbilly Gatorade as a chaser. The combination of Miller High Life, pickle juice and Old Faithful BBQ sauce will most certainly get you feeling like a true, red-blooded Southerner.
Long Island Ice Tea, $12
Oscar’s Tavern, 1524 Sansom St. 215.972.9938
Ladies and gentleman, this is the motherfucking mother lode ! Anyone who frequents this beloved Center City dive (read: PW ’s entire edit staff) knows that its Long Islands are a force to be reckoned with. Obviously, if made correctly, any Long Island will knock you on your ass. But Oscar’s version is special for two very big reasons. First, rather than the usual 12-ounce highball glass, they serve it in their 23-ounce pilsner glasses. Maintaining all their dive-y glory, they also charge about the same. Second, it actually tastes good. The secret: They only include clear liquors and replace the standard sweet-and-sour mix with orange juice. The OJ cloaks the harsh alcohols, thus making it all the more deceptively deadly. Depending on the individual, one of these bad boys will do you good for the evening (or at least happy hour). Two will have you feeling the effects well into the morning. Three, well, let’s just say Oscar’s waitress Shana doesn’t recommend it. “If I’ve got a 21-year-old kid, I don’t know if I’m going to be serving him more than two,” she says. There’s only a select group of hardcore regulars who she feels comfortable serving three. “We know they can handle it,” she says.
American Trilogy, $12
The Ranstead Room, 2013 Chestnut St. 215.563.3330
For those who’d prefer to not mingle with the beer-guzzling, sweatpants-wearing heathens of the world, this hidden Stephen Starr speakeasy-style bar offers a far more upscale drinking experience. Inside, knowledgeable mixologists use house-made mixers, freshly squeezed juice and hand-chipped ice to put a signature spin on classic cocktails. Though you’d never know it simply by perusing their menu, the American Trilogy happens to be one of their stiffest drinks. “Anything with applejack is pretty strong,” bartender Alicia Leslie explains. Made from hard cider, the sweet liquor actually went by the slang name “Jersey Lightning” back in the colonial days. The orange bitters used in the American Trilogy enhance the aroma and taste of apples while the chunk of ice floating in the center of the glass takes the edge off the rye whiskey as it melts. These are sophisticated drinks, and a bit tinier than you may hope. But as we all know, it’s not the size of the boat that matters ... or at least not when it comes to good booze.
Colonel Taylor's Revenge, $90
Rum Bar, 2005 Walnut St. 215.751.0404. rum-bar.com rum-bar.com