I’ve just been in Toronto twice, and the first time was in summer 2008. Back then there wasn’t much of a cocktail scene, so I was really looking forward to finding out what had happened in 5 years. Unfortunately, I only had two evenings to explore the city, but these are the bars I was able to visit:
60 Kensington Ave.
|Something similar to a Penicillin|
Kind of a speakeasy dive bar hidden inside Kensington Mall, offering cheap beer and well made cocktails with a no-frills attitude in a small, dark and rather gritty space with an asian vibe. Apparently there’s a nice outdoor patio during summer. Anyway, there’s no menu so the bartender will ask for preferences – and every drink was made to my satisfaction, especially the Penicillin variation.
472 Queen Street West
Quite the opposite of Cold Tea, Barchef is an upscale, cosy and very dark cocktail bar – probably a perfect place to bring a date. Here, they also have a section of molecular cocktails – of which I tried the Cedar (London dry gin, pear eau de vie, cedar dilution, raw cacao “earth”, chamomile) which was very interesting and tasty. There were a few discs of juicy pear which you were supposed to dip in the finely grated cacao, swipe it through the chamomile foam before eating it, and then taking a sip of the gin/eau de vie which was diluted by the cedar wood-infused ice ball. Unfortunately, I found that sitting in a dark corner, although quite close to the bar, made it somewhat difficult to get the servers’ attention. Otherwise, top notch.
110 Ossington Ave.
|Rock Lobster Caesar|
This company started as a succesful pop up lobster shack, but had just opened this permanent and extremely popular restaurant when I was visiting. While it’s mostly about the seafood, they also have a small and busy bar with just a few cocktails. The ones I tried were really nice, but most impressive was the savoury Rock Lobster Caesar which came with a whole lobster tail – yum!
923 Dundas Street West
A small and charming bar just across the street from the owners’ restaurant The Black Hoof, with beautiful white cupboards filled with high quality booze as well as odd bottles and jars of housemade infusions and whatnot. The cocktail list mostly sports prohibition style concoctions, but now and then with a modern twist like barrel-aging and guajillo-infused tequila. My favourite cocktail of the ones I tried was Fall Cup, which included spiced rum, gin, apple cider and white balsamic vinegar, served in a nice silver cup.
Toronto Temperance Society
577A College Street
An exclusive members’ club situated above the Sidecar restaurant, a haven of the world’s best spirits and housemade tinctures where patrons can enjoy great cocktails and service in a sophisticated speakeasy style surrounding. House rules include no mobile phone conversations, no introducing yourself to ladies – and no Cosmopolitans. The bartender on duty was very friendly and knowledgeable, and the highlight of the evening was Petey’s Muddle – a delicious and perfectly balanced smoky and spicy combination of mezcal, lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno and Laphroaig wash – highly recommended!