By ANA TAVEIRA
Toronto bars have been leading a cocktail renaissance over the past few years. Eclectic new takes on classic tipples have become the cornerstone menus throughout the city, and the number of Toronto cocktail bars has exploded. Local mixologists no longer hide the booze in sugary mixers, but rather showcase the distinctive flavours of the world’s finest whiskies, bourbons, gins and vodkas. As the trend continues, many bars are getting even more experimental with their cocktails, employing elements of molecular gastronomy or making their own bitters. But be warned: with the cocktail fad in full swing, not every watering hole can produce a truly delectable concoction. To help visitors avoid the duds, we present our guide the 10 best Toronto cocktail bars.
Trendy but intimate, with candlelit ambience and modern-Victorian decor accents, this Toronto cocktail bar is the city’s go-to lounge for drinks inspired by molecular gastronomy. Though they can be pricey (the famous vanilla hickory smoked Manhattan goes for a cool $45), owner-mixologist Frankie Solarick’s cocktails are sure to satisfy all of your senses.
Barchef, 472 Queen St. W., 416-868-4800, barcheftoronto.com
2. BOUTIQUE BAR
In the two years since it opened along the gay village’s bustling Church Street, Boutique Bar has become one of the most popular Toronto cocktail bars. Husband and wife owners Julien and Devon Salomone make the cocktail trend accessible to all comers. Try the Capri—a luscious concoction of gin, amaretto, Drambuie, fresh basil, pink peppercorn, fresh strawberry puree and lemon juice. Sipping it on the glorious street-side patio makes it all the better.
Boutique Bar, 506 Church St., 647-705-0006, boutiquebar.ca
Located on a corner in Toronto’s rapidly gentrifying Dundas West area, Churchill is the perfect neighbourhood cocktail bar—a place to unwind after a hard day, surrounded by exposed brick and wood finishes. Bartender Sandy De Almeida serves up excitement for cocktail aficionados with such drinks as the Paper Plane, made with bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Aperol and lemon juice.
Churchill, 1212 Dundas St. W. 416-588-4900, Facebook page.
4. COCKTAIL BAR
When Jen Agg, the brains behind famed Toronto restaurant the Black Hoof, decided to open a cocktail bar, she was determined that it retain the low-key vibe of its Dundas West neighbourhood. Agg’s signature drinks also reflect that unassuming ethos: classic cocktails, well and simply crafted, such as the traditional Manhattan made with homemade bitters. An important note for prospective patrons: don’t ask for anything with vodka—Agg has been known to call it “stupid.”
Cocktail Bar, 923 Dundas St. W. 416-792-7511, theblackhoof.com.
5. COLD TEA
This Toronto cocktail bar is tucked away in the back alley of a mall in Kensington Market, but Cold Tea is worth the effort it takes to find. Owner and cocktail chemist Matthew LaRochelle executes superb drinks, including the Bruce Lee—Wild Turkey bourbon, calvados, apple cider, Chinese five-spice simple syrup and home-stewed cherries. All the cocktails here pair well with the bar’s dim sum-style bites.
Cold Tea, 60 Kensington Ave., 416-546-4536, Facebook page.
6. THE COMRADE
This is probably the most cozy of Toronto cocktail bars, thanks to the exposed brick, leather chairs, tin ceiling and large fireplace. Complementing a long list of bourbons, scotches and other spirits is a selection of classic cocktails like the Manhattan and sazerac, as well as more experimental tipples such as the Café Comrade, made with crème de cacao and espresso.
The Comrade, 758 Queen St. E., 416-778-9449; thecomrade.ca.
7. THE HARBORD ROOM
The exceptional food menu by chef Cory Vitiello draws in patrons, but it’s bartender Dave Mitton’s creative drinks keep them there long into the night. The sweet and smoky signature cocktail is the Ronald Clayton (named after Mitton’s grandfather), which features vanilla-infused Crown Royal whisky, tobacco syrup and organic maple bitters.
The Harbord Room, 89 Harbord St., 416-962-8989, harbordroom.com.
8. PARTS & LABOUR
Located in west Toronto’s Parkdale district, Parts & Labour is a 5,000-square-foot restaurant, bar and occasional performance space offering delicious cuisine plus edgy cocktails. We recommend the Elderflower Royale with gin, elderflower liqueur, lime bitters and cava.
Parts & Labour, 1566 Queen St. W., 416-588-7750, partsandlabour.ca.
This Ossington Avenue hot spot offers Toronto’s largest selection of premium tequilas—all made from 100 per cent blue agave, which has none of the additives found in more popular versions. Reposado itself is fairly small, but the friendly service, shareable tapas snacks and worthy drinks—straight-up tequila, of course, plus several decent cocktails—make for a great night out with friends.
Reposado, 136 Ossington Ave., 416-532-6474, reposadobar.com.
Speakeasy-style cocktails served without pretension have made this Little Italy restaurant known throughout Toronto (the delicious Italian food helps, too). The house cocktail—cognac, Cointreau and lemon—is a favourite, as is the Jerry Sour with Sailor Jerry spiced rum, maraschino, lemon, bitters and egg whites.
Sidecar, 577 College St., 416-536-7000, sidecarrestaurant.ca.