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Eat & Drink

The top 5 places to drink bourbon in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / September 12, 2013

bourbon torontoThe top five places to drink bourbon in Toronto pay less due to Don Draper than you might think. As much as Mad Men seems to have ushered in a revival of cocktail culture in North American cities, the hard stuff in Don's office is Canadian Club. That ain't bourbon. So why all the recent fuss over this corn-mashed stuff? Well, because, relatively speaking, it's cheap and it's so very delicious. Bourbon's popularity has spiked on a global scale (so much so that there's worry about the supply), but Toronto bars have been slow to embrace the trend on a widespread basis.

Perhaps in some sense, that's a good thing. It makes the places that do specialize in bourbon all the more special. Here's where to get good bourbon when drinking out in Toronto.

Grand Electric / Electric Mud
This is a two for one scenario as both places are owned by the same folks. Toronto's loudest, most buzz-worthy restaurants do bourbon right, with more than 25 variations of the corn-bred stuff on offer at any give time. You might not imagine Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve as the most obvious companion to a beef tongue taco, but it all works really well here.

The County General
As much as bourbon is a veritable trend, you'll be damned to find a good selection at the average Toronto bar. Enter the County General. The cocktail list might not make a big deal of it, but there's 20+ different bottles behind the bar here. Oh, and if it's an Old Fashioned that you're after, look no further. This one might be the best in the city.

Red Light
The list is ever-changing here (though you can bet on something that ends in Van Winkle at any given time), but the best part is the reasonable prices on good stuff like Elijah Craig ($6) and the tragically underrated Jim Beam Black ($5). The bartenders also know their stuff should you care to chat.

Monarch Tavern
Who knew? The Monarch is one of the best places in TO for bourbon lovers. From the widely available Jim Beam to the less common Booker's, the bar overflows with bottles of the brown kind. Take note. Not many Toronto bars care to stock more than Maker's Mark.

Spirithouse
While the focus at Spirithouse might be on cocktails, you don't need to cut your stuff with bitters and sugar if you don't want to. On the contrary, come here if you want top notch bourbon for the hell of it. Or do a barrel-aged concoction when you're feeling a little rich.

BONUS

Goods & Provisions
Leslieville's speakeasy-style joint, Goods & Provisions, does fine cocktails (and has a sweet half price daily happy hour special), and if you're finicky about what bourbon to put in your Manhattan or Old Fashioned, that's not a problem. With 20 selections in stock, you're bound to find one that you like. My pick? Hancock's Reserve ($14) with a couple of ice cubes.

Photo by Jesse Milns

Discussion

32 Comments

cosmosuave / September 12, 2013 at 08:51 am
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Next top 5 places to drink Campari...
Jackie P / September 12, 2013 at 09:34 am
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Yes please!
jo / September 12, 2013 at 10:59 am
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AAA bar on richmond is da beeeeest
chris / September 12, 2013 at 11:20 am
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Surprisingly, Bar Hop on King.
Welshgrrl / September 12, 2013 at 11:31 am
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I'd also include 1602 Dundas West (aka The No Name)
pensatucky / September 12, 2013 at 11:37 am
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Sauce on the Danforth has a very nicely curated bourbon menu.

http://www.sauceondanforth.com/
Ted / September 12, 2013 at 11:43 am
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Lot St at Queen and Bathurst has a good bourbon selection as well, and great cocktails!
Craig Horning / September 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm
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Goods&Provisions on Queen Street in Leslieville also has a great selection. And I don't even like bourbon.
A / September 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm
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Really? Only the westend gets mentioned again?! Shocking!!
Rob / September 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm
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What About AAA Bar - they have 26 different bourbons on the bar...
cheapfajita / September 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm
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real fact, that is also a fun fact: The best bourbon selection in Toronto is at Habits on College Dovercourt. The have bourbon for everyone - not just those with moustachios.
Stenley / September 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm
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Goods & Provisions in Leslieville
ggg replying to a comment from cheapfajita / September 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm
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Habits is a shitty Emmet Ray knockoff
Derek / September 12, 2013 at 01:13 pm
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I did forget Goods & Provisions, which has now been added to the list.
Meg / September 12, 2013 at 01:45 pm
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The Monarch has been my longtime go-to for a good time; a place on this list is greatly deserved! I keep trying to expand my palette trying different spirits and cocktails, and this place never fails to pleasantly surprise me. If ever I can't decide, the knowledgeable staff are great for making recommendations. I can't wait for their Toronto Bourbon Week event end of the month!
Mike / September 12, 2013 at 04:07 pm
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I'm with Meg. Where is AAA though?
Well paid...Not Wealthy / September 12, 2013 at 04:17 pm
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1602 if you really know Bourbon
cheapfajita / September 12, 2013 at 04:28 pm
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Emmet Ray is well and good if you want your bar prescribed and in boundaries of your jive-ass code.

Habits is where people who have beards or don't go to enjoy a vast selection of delicious kentucky whiskey. Conspicuous consumption your thing? Go to Emmet Ray. It's good enough. I like it there. You love bourbon? Stuff that's hard to find? Habits like a nuh fuh.
Bourbon lover62 / September 12, 2013 at 05:09 pm
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The Emmett ray not only has an amazing bourbon selection but it's one of the only places (if not the only) that you can get things like George T Stagg and Hudson baby bourbon for under $20
w0wbagger / September 12, 2013 at 05:22 pm
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AAA may have a decent bourbon selection, but they don't know crap about using them in cocktails. Had a horrible manhattan in there a couple of months ago. Lovely neon-red cherry.
BarChef / September 12, 2013 at 05:30 pm
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At BarChef we have 42 different bourbons and American whiskeys.
Rob replying to a comment from Mike / September 12, 2013 at 10:30 pm
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AAA is at 138 Adelaide St East @ Jarvis - PS they also have amazing Texas BBQ - Ribs, Brisket etc
Frank / September 12, 2013 at 11:47 pm
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Southern Accent in Mirvish Village does a Bourbon sampler for $12 that allows the Bourbon fan to select 4 half-ounce pours from a Bourbon selection that has to be one of the best in the city. From Jim Beam to Bookers, they got it all.
Toronto Bourbon Week / September 13, 2013 at 08:30 am
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Timing of the list is great! We're having the first Toronto Bourbon Week at the end of the month, with the Monarch involved from this list, along with a number of other great spots in the city. Seven bourbon events over seven days, at seven different venues. Check it out at www.torontobourbonweek.com!

Hope to see you then!
Ugh / September 13, 2013 at 10:45 am
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So obvisouly Derek is grading "good" on a different scale than most people because Elijah Craig is so so as best and "highly under rated" Jim Beam Black made Red Light a Bourbon hot spot? This list is ridiculous and exactly the reason why it's difficult to find actual good bourbon in Toronto. "Hard to find Bookers"? Did you open your eyes per chance? You can get Bookers everywhere, it's just not a cheap bottle which is why you don't see it in most bars.
JE. / September 14, 2013 at 10:19 am
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Disgusted that BarChef isn't on this list.

j.
Reed / September 14, 2013 at 12:38 pm
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The miller tavern on bay has over 40. Should have named it best bourbon bars in the west end.
Chris S / November 12, 2013 at 12:26 am
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Jump Restsurant has the largest amount of bourbon types in the Core. Amazing bourbon cocktails too.
James / November 16, 2013 at 06:07 pm
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How is 3030 not on this list! Incredible bourbon list & guys who know their stuff-- Lucas Twyman in particular -- native Kentuckian. Brings back bottles from his tours of distilleries back home.
Getter / November 19, 2013 at 04:20 pm
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1602-really needs to be in the top 5
Mike / January 4, 2014 at 02:28 pm
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1602, Monarch Tavern and the Emmett Ray for selection, atmosphere and price
MikeyD / March 5, 2014 at 06:34 pm
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Monarch just got some Sazerac 18 rye and Van Winkle 12 year at $17 and $14 respectively

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