The Gift Shop
The Gift Shop is the bar at the back of Barber & Co., a men’s parlour on Lower Ossington. The name toys with the expression, “exit through the gift shop,” implying that a haircut can be a part of the flow of your lifestyle within your day, and defying a single purpose for the space.
In fact, why impede that flow at all: you can also get a beer or cocktail as you’re sharpening up your ’do. However, note that if you want to be able to chill in the Gift Shop space and get the full experience you’ll have to come after eight Wednesday through Sunday.
This building is one of the oldest on Ossington, and used to be an artist’s studio. The raw walls in this dim back area speak to that, scuffed and splattered with paint, refusing to completely mow over the history of the area in favour of a sparkly clean new look.
Drinks here are showy, mixologist-y and ingredient-packed. A Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory ($14) is a knockout shade of pink garnished with sprinkles, made with Havana Club, clarified lemon juice, banana split and chocolate peanut syrup, egg white, and bubblegum and cotton candy perfumes that make this like drinking a booze sundae.
The bartender is known simply as H, and that’s it. Owner of Barber & Co. Martin Rivard met the English cocktail connoisseur in Montreal, and he ran a bar next to one of Rivard’s original Vancouver locations of Barber & Co. in Gastown. Rivard always wanted to incorporate a bar into one of his parlour spaces, but liquor licensing is different in BC.
The Art of the Dill ($13) is a little more my speed than the Willy Wonka, though the abundance of potentially eye-poking dill flower garnish is almost as over the top as sprinkles and perfumes. It’s made with Beefeater and Akvavit (also more my speed than rum) along with brine, Fever-Tree tonic and a healthy strip of lemon zest.
In addition to cocktails, spirits and beer you can also actually purchase the collectibles that dot this space, such as the Akira complete comic set ($200) or Back to the Future Marty and Doc figurines along with a toy Delorean ($175).
Ossington is changing so Rivard wanted to keep in mind that we can all still be artists of a sort, whether our medium is hair or Havana Club. The bar at the back of this barber shop proves that these days in Toronto, one need not choose between one space or another when it comes to balancing out the activities we enjoy doing.