Cara O'Donnell Winter 2016
“And we’re off!”
The guide, decked out in full Colonial garb, gives a wink as we set off along the streets of Old City Philadelphia. It’s just after dusk, and we already know this isn’t going to be an ordinary history tour.
This is the Tippler’s Tour from Historic Philadelphia Inc. – part pub crawl, part history lesson – and it’s a flavorful and unique way to experience the city’s oldest neighborhoods and historical treasures. The weekly tavern tour (held Thursdays except for major holidays) explores three modern-day watering holes as well as a Colonial-era historic tavern, where a guide, portraying a real Philadelphia resident of the era, shares stories of the past and a few libations with guests.
During the holiday season, the Tippler’s Tour presents Yuletide Cheers & Beers (runs Nov. 12 to Dec. 17), where guests are transported back to the Philadelphia of 1777, and holiday celebrations are as lively as the surrounding tumult. On this tour, the first stop is Salon 401 at the Omni Hotel (401 Chestnut St.), which overlooks Independence National Historical Park. Tourgoers enjoy a craft brew and snacks amongst the elegant surroundings of the restaurant while the guide shares stories of the past, including how taverns and pubs like these were where business was conducted during Colonial times. Taverns were the hub where news was shared, deals were made, and recruits gathered.
The next stop is a few blocks away at National Mechanics Philadelphia Bar and Restaurant (22 S. Third St.). Here, in more traditional tavern surroundings in a building that was once a bank, the group loosens up a bit (another pour of craft beer helps) and the guide begins more casual tales of Colonial songs and merriment. There are toasts to General Washington, and visitors start to learn a few phrases of Colonial tavern life. Allegedly, Ben Franklin liked to say his drinking buddies were “nimptopsical” or “tipsicum grave” when they’d had one too many.
On to The Victoria Freehouse (10 S. Front St.), an authentic British pub, where guests arrive to some warming Welsh rarebit and a pint of craft brew. It’s the perfect locale to toast, relax, and eat and drink. It seems fitting that a British pub is on the itinerary. After all, the British were occupying Philadelphia at this time in 1777. However, it doesn’t seem like that status stopped the merrymaking.
The final stop is the historical City Tavern (138 S. Second St.), a popular spot since the days when Benjamin Franklin was a prominent guest. Guests are handed a mug of cider and a steaming plate of the Tavern’s famous sweet potato biscuits – a recipe of Thomas Jefferson. The tavern’s authentic Colonial vibe, complete with cider, laughter, and a roaring fire in the fireplace, is perfect to top off the evening and leave everyone with a taste of life in the taverns of Colonial Philadelphia.
Just try not to get too nimptopsical.
The two-hour Tippler’s Tour departs from the Historic Philadelphia Center at Sixth and Chestnut streets. Costs are $45 for adults and $40 for seniors/military/students, which includes all tastings and gratuities. Guests must be 21 or over with valid ID.