Sure, Esquire might have had its heyday back in the '60s, but the venerated men's mag is still viewed as knowing a thing or two when it comes to booze. Which is why it's still no small deal that Philly's own Southwark (along with fellow list-makers The Grey Lodge and Friendly Lounge) made the magazine's 2011 Best Bars in America List. We spoke with George Costa, manager and bartender at Southwark, about the significance of the list and the bar's secret ingredient.
First of all, congratulations! You've been on this list before, but it's still good to get re-upped. Is there a special significance making this list to you guys?
Well, any press is good press, I guess. It's not something we were striving to do, but it's nice to know we've been recognized for doing a good job. It's cool to be nationally recognized.
This isn't the first time you guys have earned national press. What's your national appeal, do you suppose?
Quality products and we care about what we're doing.
In the listing, the author cites their drink of choice as being a rye Old-Fashioned.
It's not by any means our signature drink. Dave Wondrich [Esquire's 'Drinks Correspondent'] the guy in charge of this, it just happens to be what he ordered when he came here.
Still, he must have really liked it. What's the secret to making a good one?
Rye whiskey. It's a spicier, grassier drink and works better with the sugar and bitters than bourbon, which is sweeter by nature. We're pretty sure we have the largest rye whiskey collection in the world right now. We have 33. I don't know anyone who has more of them.
If not an Old-Fashioned, then, what might be the perfect drink for the Esquire reader?
A Manhattan is always fantastic.
Is that the signature drink of Southwark, would you say?
Yes, we make way more Manhattans than anything else, a rye Manhattan to be more precise. It's what we do.
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