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Design Stores


Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on April 28, 2011

Byob TorontoBYOB is just like your favourite kitchen knick-knack store, but instead of your countertop, everything here is for your bar. That makes BYOB a dangerous place for someone such as myself, with too many garlic presses and onion fridge savers to count. So I walked into BYOB on Queen Street West near Ossington with my guard up, ready to test the perseverance of my own willpower. Of course, that all dissipated the second I entered the shop.

Byob TorontoVintage wine glasses, animal-head wine stoppers, antique flasks and more. Yes, I was getting that glazed-over look in my eyes, and yet not a drop of booze in sight. Just mini-bar toys everywhere, which was enough to get me salivating.

Byob TorontoRyerson Hospitality grad Kristen Voisey decided to open her "cocktail emporium" after visiting L.A. and coming across a store called Barkeepers. "It was actually in an area of L.A. very similar to this," she tells me, referring to West Queen West. "As far as I knew, there wasn't anything like this in Toronto."

Byob TorontoVoisey has been collecting vintage glassware for years, as well as refurbishing and expropriating old cabinets and appliances and turning them into mini-bars. Eventually, her collection outgrew her mother's basement and she was tipped off to this space, formerly a gallery and later hosted a few pop-up shops.

Byob TorontoNow it's plush with bar toys, and a few larger items that have me mesmerized. The first: a Leitmotiv wine bottle chandelier ($700) hanging delicately in the back end of the store. The second: the retro television-turned-mini-bar in the window, outfitted with a Union Jack glass top ($550). And the antique upright freezer, also turned into a mini-bar (Voisey isn't sure if she's selling it), now holding a collection of glasses made from familiar beer bottles ($18).

Byob TorontoBut not in the mood to drop a few hundred, I had Voisey show me some of her favourite pieces. "The absinthe dispenser ($45)," she says, leading me over to a table. "This has definitely gotten a lot of attention." It's glass and sleek, something you'd want to show off in your home.

Byob TorontoWe then move to the Brew Your Own Beer kits ($49), which Voisey got from the Brooklyn Brew Shop. "It takes about 30 days," she tells me. "So, since we've been open less than that, I haven't heard any feedback yet." She shows me the Flask in a Diary ($28), something she has since made use of, and BYOB's new line of bitters (14.99), lined neatly on its bar.

Byob TorontoThat bar will likely be of greater use in the future, as Voisey is hoping to host workshops and tastings. In the meantime, there's a bunny head wall-mounted bottle opener with my name on it ($24).

ByobByob TorontoPhotos by Dennis Marciniak



agentsmith / April 28, 2011 at 09:25 am
FYI, the "absinthe dispenser" is actually called an absinthe fountain, and is used to dispense water for mixing with the absinthe.
AV replying to a comment from agentsmith / April 28, 2011 at 09:34 am

I wonder if Absinthe will be the new PBR
EricM / April 28, 2011 at 09:36 am
I am so excited about this place I think I just peed a little... I guess we will need all the alcohol we can find after Monday.
tnt / April 28, 2011 at 09:52 am
Just what fat people in Toronto need, more f'n beer..perf
Rob / April 28, 2011 at 09:52 am
Boy, this must really titillate the folks across the street at CAMH...BYOB! Lol...
me / April 28, 2011 at 11:10 am
Was excited to click and few this...but seriously?
this store is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
coolio / April 28, 2011 at 11:36 am
Seriously, why shop here when you can get your glassware free with a beverage purchase at your local bar?
simuls / April 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm
I was really excited when I passed by this place a couple weeks ago, but upon entering and looking around it really has very little to recommend it with a poorly curated selection of alcoholic kitsch. Too bad, we could use a good bar store.
TheRealJohnson / April 28, 2011 at 02:04 pm
Agreed with the general disappointment present in other comments. The idea of a shop selling just bar accessories is a great concept; but this looks like a thrown together collection of some of the slightly more interesting crap you can find if you look hard enough at Goodwill or a Value Village.
Bboy / April 28, 2011 at 05:07 pm
Loved going in here - grabbed some nice stuff. My new go-to store for gift shopping.
mr. hood / April 28, 2011 at 11:18 pm
haven't been here yet, but the pictures show a lot of stemware and unique glassware accessories. Are there other products such as syrups, powders, specialty garnishes, or any food and beverage product??

will they stock hard to find bitters, or other such products? are they more for the home based cocktail user, or industry friendly for those in a more professional realm..
BYOB replying to a comment from mr. hood / April 29, 2011 at 09:51 am
Hey there - we are currently carrying a selection of specialty syrups and bitters from Fee Brothers (http://www.feebrothers.com) and looking into bringing in preserved garnishes for summer.
The store absolutely caters to the amateur cocktail enthusiast - that said, professional and industry bartenders could also score some unique finds. And if there's anything we don't carry that you'd love to see in-store, just let us know and we'll do our best to seek it out.
Hope to see you in soon!
Jayphill / April 29, 2011 at 10:49 am
Dear BLOG T.O, don't put a comment section up if you're just going to delete someone's review/comment. Just because you love this place doesn't mean everyone will. Ridiculous.
Tanya / April 29, 2011 at 04:54 pm
Loved the store - the antique glass collection is fabulous and there are many perfect finds to add to that bottle of wine you bring to a dinner party. Apparently, they will be adding some unique mini-bar furniture pieces which will fit beautifully into tight condo spaces - the kind majority of young Torontonians seem to own.
In addition, it's great to see new and exciting stores popping up in up-and-coming areas of the city...
Kaleb / September 15, 2011 at 04:38 pm
I've had to put a moratorium on my own glass purchasing because it was getting out of control, but there were a few sets here I was tempted by. I've bought a few different bitters to try and given a couple away as gifts. Store still seems new, so I'm looking forward to the potential it has.
Mike / April 17, 2012 at 10:39 pm
They've got some nice stuff but the staff are mostly rude and inattentive, even when you're at the counter ready to pay.

In addition, the prices... eesh! They sell Fee Brothers bitters for $12.99. They're $8 at Mercantile. They sell jiggers for $10. They're $3 elsewhere in the city. (And the ones at BYOB aren't even labeled with measurements.) They also had an ice crusher labeled 'vintage' for $60. The exact item is available new from the Toronto School of Bartending for $35.
Jess / August 9, 2012 at 09:51 pm
So rude! Walked in, 4 people standing behind the cash doing absolutely nothing. Clearly too busy to help or acknowledge my presence.
Phil / August 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm
I loved the staff there....I spent like 10 minutes asking questions about bitters and the girl was so helpful. I am from Chicago and found this review...and totally disagree with the negative comments. Its an awesome store and I was very happy with the customer service.
Janet / August 13, 2012 at 09:59 pm
I just bought 4 different flavours of Fee Brothers bitters and they were only $10! They had soooo many flavours and brands....so happy to see that in Toronto. Also purchased Regans orange and Bittermans Mole. yay BYOB!
Steve / October 10, 2012 at 03:07 pm
Came across this store over the long weekend and had just a great experience. The lady working there was very nice and helpful, as she patiently explained to me the essentials I needed for a sophisticated home bar. She also recommended a number of great cocktails that I made for my family Thanksgiving.

The prices are more than fair (e.g. I noticed some flasks and glasses here that were cheaper than the same ones at Urban Outfitters down the street), and I highly recommend BYOB to anyone who is looking to augment their own home bar or looking to find a unique (and useful) gift.

So much cool stuff here. So great to have this place in Toronto. I know where my Christmas money is going.
Jason / November 10, 2012 at 08:20 pm
Where can I get Underberg bitters?
Yoshi / November 4, 2013 at 09:01 am
This store has potential but always manages to piss me off. First off all of the interesting bar items are behind the counter and not for sale. I don't want to buy mass produced replica tiki with the real items sitting there. Keep your collection at home. Also, every single time I come in here the staff completely ignore my existence. I was on my knees digging through a shelf of beer kits and no one even came over to assist me. I have spoken to at least 3 people that had the same experience here. Is business so good these days that places can afford to punish their customers?

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