It's a treacly world of Jolly Rancher-tinis out there, now that the 'tini-fication of America has dumbed the once-proud cocktail down into little more than a saucer of colorful punch with a kick.
There is a rising resistance, though, among serious "cocktailians," a coterie of ambitious bar pros reclaiming the dignity of their drinks. High-end spirits, homemade mixers, vintage recipes, and creativity distinguish top local bars such as Southwark and Chick's. But when it comes to moving Philly's cocktail to the cutting edge, ultra-modern Apo (formerly Apothecary) is a shaker one must note.
Its high-tech, slow-melt ice cubes are extra cold. And the barkeeps here really play with fire. Poof! That's an ignited orange peel landing - fully aflame - in my "Midtown Village." With a deep-fruit splash of port, an herbal twinge of amaro bitters, Italian vermouth, and spicy rye rounded by the flaming citrus twist, it's just one of 25 Manhattans crafted for Apo by consultant Tad Carducci. It's mysterious and complex; so much smarter than the average 'tini. There's a sip of hope in the saucer after all.
The Midtown Village costs $11 at Apo Bar and Lounge, 102 S. 13th St., 215-735-7500.
- Craig LaBan