The Best Cocktails in Toronto
The best cocktails in Toronto are a far cry from the blind pouring and dashing of Toronto's club scene. Rather, they recognize the cocktail as an artisanal craft and, without exception, have mastered the layering of flavours that makes for a drink that one must sip at a glacial pace.
I've said it before, and will say it again: the city's renaissance of classic cocktail culture is trickling down from leather-and-glass gentlemen's clubs and from Toronto's up-and-coming neighbourhoods onto the menus of most restaurants worth their salt. It's refreshing to know that even on such a varied list, any of these establishments will gladly and gamely scroll through centuries-old recipes to create a storied drink for you, tweaked for the modern palate.
No longer is alcohol buried under mountains of pre-made mix, juices or soda — rather, the full flavor profiles of the liquors themselves are highlighted. The resulting drinks are meant to be savoured, not chugged, and you might surprise yourself (as I often have) by learning that you love the taste of aged bourbon or smoked whisky when its given the space to breathe in a glass.
This year's choices are a mix of old favorites, such as Barchef and the Harbord Room, hidden gems like Kensington's Cold Tea and Goodnight, and newer entries like Yours Truly. They all bear this cocktail-lover's stamp of approval.
Aside from the black-curtained windows, the light-absorbing black decor, and going cross-eyed within minutes from the incense fumes alone, the stars of the show are the epic mixologists behind the counter, helmed by Frankie Solarik, and the complex finished products that expertly command all your senses. Expect your drinks to be set on fire, captured and distilled into foam, or awash in waves of scented smoke. More »
Perhaps the bar that most recognizes the timeless worth of a classic cocktail, Jen Agg's Cocktail Bar remains one of my favorite haunts. The bartenders are unflappable as they exactingly concoct house-made bitters and hard-to-find ingredients like violet liqueur. Almost everything on the menu has been modernized in a subtle manner, and the results are fantastic. Just don't ask for vodka. More »
Sidecar, named for the famous early 20th century European cocktail, serves a damn good one. This Little Italy standby imbibes Torontoians with freshly-prepared, unpretentious drinks like a Dark & Stormy, raspberry-sweetened mojitos and the frothy combo of Sailor Jerry spiced rum, bitters, lemon and egg whites. More »
Hankering for a touch of class? Look no further than this brick-walled and plush-chaired home to a well-chosen selection of some of the world's finest cocktails. At The Harbord Room, find the Bronx Cocktail, a fast-talking mix of gin, vermouths and orange, or a Stinger -suitable for captains of industry after a long day of deal-brokering. More »
Renowned chef Claudio Aprile designs the dishes at this King West standout, but Origin's drinks are the brainchild of its bartenders. Enjoy a cocktail in the impeccably designed interior or take in the panoramic corner view that the generous patio affords. And the drinks? Classic cocktails turned modern, and entirely innovative concoctions reflecting seasonal fruits and trends, using their own in-house syrups and top-shelf liquors. More »
Yours Truly has garnered piles of press for their innovative food and the drinks, as you'd expect, follow form by cleverly complementing their classics menu with a list of deviations. Try a Gin Collins surprisingly elevated by thyme, or a maple-coated rye and ginger concoction that's sugar, spice, and everything nice. More »
Parts & Labour is a rollicking two-level monolith where Parkdale dames and gents start their eve up top with finely balanced cocktails such as the Peacemaker, a hair-on-your-chest mix of Rittenhouse Bonded Rye Whisky, Amaro Montenegro, cherry heering and bitters, then head downstairs for music and beats as the night devolves. More »
Cold Tea is a bar where other bartenders end their night; high praise indeed for this hole-in-the-wall down a Kensington back alley serving an all-original line-up of cocktails with Asian flair, like a touch of sake in a gin and ginger mix. The ever-changing menu is built around bartender Sarah Parniak's love of exotic flavors. More »