Bar Hopping: Village Whiskey, Philadelphia, PA

Last Friday I made my first trip to Village Whiskey - the Rittenhouse Square restaurant and bar that has received rave reviews since opening last August. Village Whiskey, the fourth Philly restaurant opened by Philadelphia's celebrity chef du jour Jose Garces, has quickly established itself as one of the best places in Philadelphia to get a hamburger. A taste of that burger will have to wait for another time since my visit to Village Whiskey was on one of the hottest days of the year so far, and I just can't think about big juicy hamburgers when the temperature is over 95 degrees at 6:00pm. A nice refreshing whiskey however was just what I needed on such an evening.

The whiskey list at Village Whiskey has received surprisingly little attention from the restaurant reviewers who have raved about the delicious burgers and unique bar snacks (think oysters, deviled eggs, and five different pickle options). The whiskey list isn't over-the-top, and there were a few brands that I hoped to see that were absent, but it is probably the most extensive whiskey list in a Philadelphia bar.

Given the ridiculous limitations imposed by Pennsylvania's liquor control board it's impressive that Garces was able to assemble such a wide-ranging and comprehensive list. Short of placing a special order through your local state-run wine & spirits shop and waiting a week or more for delivery, this might be the only place to get many of these whiskeys in Philadelphia. Unfortunately you're going to pay for the hard work that went into assembling this selection. Most of the more common whiskeys on Village Whiskey's list are priced about $2 more than they would be at other establishments, while some of the rarer drinks are priced to reflect the fact that you can't get them anywhere else within a 50 mile radius (don't say go to New Jersey, that's ridiculous:).

The whiskey list is arranged into five categories: bourbon, rye, Irish, blended, and single malt Scotch. I felt a tinge of sadness that Canadian whiskey was nowhere to be found, as there are a few small batch products from the Great White North that deserve to be on this list. Japan was also poorly represented with only one Japanese selection - Suntory Hibiki 12 Year - hidden among the blended Scotches. The bourbon choices range from Jim Bean ($6 for a 2oz pour) to Parker's Heritage ($60) with about four dozen options in between. The single malts, of which there are also about fifty to choose from, range from Glen Scotia ($14) to Laphroaig 30 Year ($60). To see the full whiskey list click here. A nice list of quality draft and bottled beers, a short, Spanish-leaning wine list, and baker's dozen handcrafted cocktails round out the drink options.

Since my wife and I had dinner plans elsewhere I limited myself to one drink on this particular night. In an effort to try something new without breaking the bank I went for the Bulleit Frontier Bourbon ($10) which is relatively widely available, but which I had not tried before. It was served in a small scotch glass with a glass of ice on the side since I asked for "a couple rocks." The grainy, sharp bourbon went well with the pickled herb cherry tomatoes we ordered which were served with a side of toasted bread, black olive tapenade, and whipped ricotta. My wife enjoyed the Commodore, a bourbon and lime based drink from the cocktail list. Since there were no seats open at the bar (apparently there rarely are) we sat outside on one of the sidewalk tables which turned out to be a lovely way to start off the first weekend of summer. Based on my first visit, I highly recommend Village Whiskey if you're in Philadelphia and looking to sample a unique range of whiskeys while munching on delicious, unique snacks. Maybe next time I'll try that burger...