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I didn’t know it at the time, but I had my first citywide special in Philadelphia in late May of 1981.
It was one of those sticky-hot days, and I’d just moved to Fishtown. I hadn’t yet started my summer job, so I went on a long walk up Frankford Avenue to explore. After lunch at the Frankford Queen Diner, I turned around headed back, building up a powerful thirst.
As I got closer to Allen Street, I saw the sign for Johnny Brenda’s and thought a beer would be perfect. I walked in and sat down at the bar, next to two older gentlemen. As I pulled up a stool, the bartender nodded. He grabbed a can of Ortlieb’s and set it down in front of me, then poured a shot of Corby’s whiskey to go alongside.
“Sixty-five cents,” he said. (In those days, before JB’s was revamped by new ownership, there was no asking mid-afternoon customers what they wanted.)
It was years later when I found out about Philly’s unique name for a shot-and-beer combo. My wife and I went to South Street to visit a pop-up beer garden, but we arrived too early; it didn’t open till 5 p.m. We searched for a place to wait, and fortunately found Bob and Barbara’s. We were introduced to the bar’s signature ice cold can of PBR and overflowing shot of Jim Beam — and the name citywide special.
As soon as “citywide” was added to my vocabulary, I sought out and found variations across the city.
I also began drinking citywides at home, coming up with new pairings and giving titles to each one. In most cases, I tend towards cheap beer and whiskey, but not always, especially when local makers are involved.
My friends get a kick out of the names, so I thought I would share some of my favorites.
- Any Pennsylvania beer with a shot of Kentucky bourbon (Yuengling with a Jim Beam, for example) is a “Pennsyl-tuckey.”
- Any Goose Island beer and shot of Canadian whiskey is a “Canadian Goose.” Locally, we refer to it using the Lenni-Lenape language — it’s a “Wawa.”
- In honor of Leonard Cohen, any porter and Canadian whiskey is a “You Want It Darker.”
- A Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald with a Canadian Whiskey is a “Gordon Lightfoot” or a “Shipwreck.”
- In honor of Kate Winslet in “Mare of Eastown,” a Rolling Rock with Jameson is a “Lady Hawk.”
- A Rolling Rock and Black Velvet whiskey is a “Black 33.”
- Any beer from the anthracite coal mining region (Yuengling, Lionshead, etc.) and Black Velvet is a “Coal Cracker.”
- A DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus and Black Velvet is a “Black Messiah” (thanks to Ozzie for this one).
- Any Victory beer and Black Velvet whiskey is a “Dark Victory.”
- A Victory Brotherly Love IPA and Philadelphia-made whiskey is a “Philly Philly.”
- Any Philadelphia Brewing Company beer and a Rowhouse Spirit is a “Dean’s List.”
- A PBC Walt Wit ale and Robert Burns scotch is “Poetic Justice.”
- Any Yards Brewing beer and scotch is a “Scotland Yard.”
- A Love City Eraserhood IPA and shot of Ten High sour mash is a “Marrying Up, Marrying Down” (the 4-pack of beer costs more than the 1.75 liter bottle of whiskey).
- A Wissahickon Brewing Czech Please Pilsner and shot of whiskey is a “Czechsylvania.”
- Any New Ridge Brewing beer with Very Old Barton Bourbon is a “Something Old, Something New.”
- Any Dogfish beer and whiskey is a “Beam Me Up, Sam” (thanks to Sandee for that one). A Slightly Mighty lo-cal IPA and Jim Beam is a “Skinny Dogfish on a Beam.”
- Any Brooklyn Brewery beer and whiskey is a “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.”
- Any hazy IPA and a named whiskey is a “Hazy Jack,” “Hazy Jim,” “Hazy Evan,” etc. If it is Lake Shore Fog IPA, it’s a “Foggy Jack/Jim/Evan/etc.”
- Any Octoberfest beer and cheap whiskey is an “October Surprise.”
- Any beer from Georgia and whiskey is a “Midnight Train.”
Some days I have two shots and one beer. I call that a city-double-wide. You can also call it a jetpack. Have fun naming your own!