The Best Cocktails in Toronto
The best cocktails in Toronto are far more diverse than, say, five years ago. It took a while, but cocktail culture eventually exploded in this city, giving rise to a host of speakeasy-inspired bars and making it virtually mandatory for all new establishments to have a cocktail list of some sort. The best places tend to respect the classics, offering slight tweaks on drinks like the Manhattan, Negroni and Sazerac, to name only a few. Look closely enough, however, and you'll also find novel concoctions that show off the creativity and skill of our city's talented bartenders.
Here is where you can find the best cocktails in Toronto.
An extension of the Black Hoof, Cocktail Bar's anti-vodka mantra is clearly posted on one wall as you enter. Retaining the decor from the legendary Hoof Cafe, this intimate spot takes top spot for both the delicately-prepared drinks and the gorgeous interior. The cottage theme sparkles at night, with the candlelight bouncing off the polished antique tin ceiling. It's hard to imagine a better spot for a first date. More »
Cold Tea has been a go-to spot for industry-types since its inception. Located in a hard-to-find corridor in a Kensington Market doorway, there's a reward simply in finding the place. There's no cocktail list, but the bar is impressively stocked with liquor, and each bartender is more than capable of creating something just for you, while also keeping your PBR-drinking buddies happy. More »
Frankie Solarik's molecular experiment has become something of a fixture on the Toronto bar scene since opening back in 2009. The devil is in the details at Barchef, however, so drinks can take a while in coming, though the Smoked Manhattan, presented in a belljar, has become something of a must-try. More »
Dave Mitton, co-owner of the Harbord Room (and neighbouring THR&Co) should be considered the grand-patriarch of the Toronto cocktail scene. As chapter president of the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association, he's involved in virtually every significant cocktail event in the city. Such experience is evident in an immaculately refined cocktail list. Make sure to try the Ronald Clayton, made with Crown Royal, maple bitters, and tobacco syrup. More »
Northwood's cocktail menu is one of the most creative in the city, with tea and cold brew-infused offerings, seasonal variations, and slightly modified classics. Try the Lady Grey Sour ($12), a combination of Earl Grey, Rye, citrus and black pepper. Despite the short ingredient list, its flavour profile is about as interesting as cocktails get. Oh, if you don't see something on the menu, chances are the bartender knows how to make it. More »
All the attention at Bar Isabel seems to be directed at the incredible Spanish food on offer (try the octopus or the sea bream ceviche), but Mike Webster's cocktail program shouldn't be overlooked. Sazeracs are actually made with Sazerac Rye, flips are made with muscat, and there's even a rum-and-sherry Old-Fashioned. It's hard to get a table, but you can usually squeeze yourself in at the bar somewhere. More »
Spirit House, an extension of Toronto Institute of Bartending, has installed itself as the centre of the cocktail scene since launching as a bartender's wet dream. Featuring virtually every liquor imaginable, a huge workspace, and even a choice of ices, this is more like a playground for great bartenders than it is a lounge. More »
A continuation of the excellent program at Nota Bene, Carbon Bar gets the nod ahead of its fine-dining cousin for a number of factors. There's the vast and dramatic interior, the accessible menu and, most importantly, the huge bar area that can hold a ton of people. Chartreuse, Campari, and amaro all feature heavily on the Prohibition era cocktail list. More »
Replacing Parkdale's Cowbell was considered a tough task, but the team at Geraldine have exceeded expectations by some distance, thanks in no small part to bar manager Michael Mooney's outstanding cocktail program. Absinthe features heavily (and you really should try the absinthe mint julep), but the drinks are all incredibly crafted, and the setting couldn't be prettier. Think Parisian bistro with a ton of seafood. More »
Eternally popular, the County just opened a second spot in Riverside. The original, however, is still a magnet for the West Queen West locals who flood in for house-made Gin & Tonics, outstanding Caesars and Manhattans. Jeff Carroll runs the bar program, which features as many boozy drinks as it does refreshing new classics, like the cucumber-rum infused Dr. Painkiller. More »
Dustin Keating's cocktail bar has brought a touch of hip to the Dundas and Bathurst crowd. With Bar Manager Josh LeBlanc mixing up all manner of drinks, including Negronis and Manhattans on top, this spot comfortably manages to offer the same 'what'll-it-be' cool you'd find at Cold Tea, but without being quite so difficult to find. Montauk's a small spot, so make sure to grab a seat early in the evening before it fills up. More »
Named for the threatened nightjar species, the Whippoorwill adds comfortably to the burgeoning Bloor and Landsdowne neighbourhood. Japhet Bower's cocktails continue from the excellent work he was doing at La Carnita. Go trust in tip-top drinks like the Diablo Verde, featuring tequila and a home-made poblano pepper syrup. More »