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Purveyors of one of the commonwealth’s oldest industries are staking a new claim in the River Wards with this week’s opening of Manatawny Still Works Fishtown.
“We’re very proud to be Pennsylvanian,” said Jay Kosek, Manatawny’s director of brand operations, echoing the sentiment printed across t-shirts worn by staff on a bustling preview night. “At one point, most of the whiskey in the United States was made in Pennsylvania.”
Located on Lee Street adjacent to Pizzeria Beddia, the new bar has a minimal yet cozy interior: brick walls, a scattering of metal high tables and stools, and a wooden counter running nearly the length of the rectangular space. There are approximately 50 seats overall, including some sidewalk tables.
This is the fourth tasting room for the Montgomery County distillery — one opened in Ardmore just 6 months ago — and the second in Philly proper, following the outpost on East Passyunk.
It joins Fishtown’s booming dining scene, which is home to some of the city’s most talked about restaurants. It’s also in the middle of what could be considered Philadelphia distillery central. To the north are Philadelphia Distilling and Strivers’ Row Distillery, and to the south are New Liberty Distillery and Federal Distilling.
The Manatawny team wants to bring something new to the conversation.
“We’re not making the same whiskey everyone else is,” said head distiller Max Pfeffer, explaining the rarity of a four-grain whiskey built on malt, wheat, oats, and rye (and no corn).
The drink menu at the tasting room — which also features wine and beer — is built to showcase the idea of “what whiskey can be,” Pfeffer said. The cocktail list will change often, he said, just like a local brewery might showcase 33 beers one week and an entire new lineup the next.
“No matter who you are or what you like to drink, we have a seat for you at the bar with a cocktail you’ll enjoy,” said Kosek, the director of brand operations.
The opening list has nine “classics,” including the Manatawny twist on familiars from martinis, negronis and mules to sazeracs and whiskey sours, the latter impressing with its well-balanced (minimal) yolkiness and subtly sweet maple whiskey.
Off the list of eight signature cocktails, the Rebel Rebel packs less of a punch than the name suggests, and the “spicy rim” was anything but, but the white whiskey and slightly saccharine mango juice (a Jumex brand can was spotted behind the bar) will make for a breezy combo as the weather warms.
Combining American gold rum, passion fruit, orgeat, almond, and lime, the Something to Talk About was described as “a guaranteed hit for marzipan lovers.” Another hit was the Tubthumping: oat milk, cold brew, chocolate bitters and a coffee whiskey.
That last was one of four limited-release whiskeys on the menu, and it’s the result of a partnership with nearby Reanimator Coffee; an example of the collaborative efforts Kosek for which hopes the new tasting room will grow into a hub.
There’s no in-house kitchen, but customers can bring food from elsewhere, Kosek said. “There are so many great options for food in the immediate area.”
He hopes to see the Lee Street tasting room grow into a space for community events, featuring local boutiques and crafts-makers. “We see ourselves as fellow artisanal craft producers,” Kosek said. “We take pride in the things that we make, and we want to be able to share them with everybody else.”
Manatawny Still Works Fishtown is open 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday. Kids and dogs (!) are welcome.