The original citywide special at Bob & Barbara's Credit: Max Marin / Billy Penn

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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!

Wilkes-Barre native Wayne Brew has lived in Philadelphia since 1981, when he moved here after graduating from Penn State. He teaches geography and earth science at a local community college. In his spare...