With outdoor-only dining here to stay for at least the immediate future, keeping warm in the elements is a challenge. Outdoor heaters help and so do blankets and tents. By now, diners know to don coats and insulated boots to battle the chill. Sipping a hot drink — and using it as a hand warmer — is also a tasty solution. Local restaurants are going above and beyond with creative warm sippers for both tipplers and teetotalers.

Keep in mind that within the city limits, food must be ordered with alcoholic beverages. And for those with little ones, hot chocolate is easy to come by at many Philly spots.

Cocktails Designed for Cool Days

Rock Salt, the outdoor seating area of MilkBoy South Street, serves a variety of hot cocktails spiked with spirits.
Rock Salt, the outdoor seating area of MilkBoy South Street, serves a variety of hot cocktails spiked with spirits.

Live shows may be on pause, but that hasn’t stopped music-oriented MilkBoy South Street from rocking on. A new rock-n-roll themed outdoor seating area, called Rock Salt, offers several classic hot cocktails. Those with Western Pennsylvania roots will recognize boilo — a whiskey-driven, coal country standby. Hot buttered rum and hot chocolate — spiked with kahlua or peanut butter whiskey — go down easy.

On the heated, covered patio at Stove and Tap, the Jack’s Frosty cocktail employs its Lansdale neighbor Boardroom Spirits’ vodka in a hot chocolate-based tipple. Also on offer: mulled wine and a bourbon-spiked apple cider.

McGillin’s Olde Ale House wins points for the sheer size of its hot drinks list. The city’s oldest continuously operating tavern is whipping up five booze-infused beverages to keep its outdoor diners toasty. Hot chocolate here gets even sweeter with a pour of butterscotch or peppermint schnapps. The historic bar is also offering Irish coffee, a hot toddy, and a bourbon-spiked chai. Fans of the cinnamon whiskey Fireball can go for a “Fireside,” which features the spicy spirit in hot apple cider with a cinnamon sugar rim.

Hot chocolate and churro at El Merkury
El Merkury
Hot chocolate and churro at El Merkury

Winter warmers at El Merkury and Añejo

Hot chocolate shows up on plenty of menus around town, but the Guatemalan version at Center City’s El Merkury wins points for being single source, fair trade, organic, and vegan. The sweet drink ends up dark, rich, and “as close as you can get to what the Mayans used to drink as their ceremonial beverage,” according to owner Sofia Deleon. Sip it alongside hot, sugary churros or the fast casual restaurant’s spicy black bean soup.

Back in July, Añejo in Northern Liberties made the bold move to open in the middle of a pandemic. The Mexican restaurant and tequila bar is still going with the flow by turning to heated outdoor seating and hot menu offerings. The bar’s take on coquito combines tequila and spiced rum with tamarind and warming spices for a hot, vegan-friendly drink. The Huerta Caliente features mezcal and spicy chili liquor and a tea-based hot toddy gets a boost from aged tequila and poached pineapple. Don’t miss the kitchen’s pozole — a stew of nixtamalized corn and a chili dotted salsa in a rich pork broth.


Fork and Fond offer classic hot apple cider

In Old City, farm-to-table specialist Fork starts with unfiltered, local apple cider as the base for its wassail. The traditional German mulled cider gets infused with brandy, Cointreau, toasted spices — juniper berries, allspice, cinnamon sticks, pink peppercorns, and cloves — plus cranberry, pineapple, and lemon juice.

Fond takes advantage of its central location right at East Passyunk Avenue’s Singing Fountain. The restaurant has taken to the sidewalk with a weekend pop-up. Along with housemade sausages, chef-owner Lee Styer is pouring piping hot apple cider and will happily spike it with bourbon.