The top 5 places to drink bourbon in Toronto
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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