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Best of Toronto

The Best Cocktails in Toronto

Posted by Jen Hunter / April 25, 2014

cocktails torontoThe 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.

See also:

The best Manhattans in Toronto
The best whisky bars in Toronto
The best cheap drinks in Toronto

Cocktail Bar

Cocktail Bar

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

Cold Tea

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 »

BarChef

BarChef

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 »

Harbord Room

Harbord Room

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

Northwood

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 »

Bar Isabel

Bar Isabel

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

Spirit House

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 »

Carbon Bar

Carbon Bar

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 »

Geraldine

Geraldine

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 »

County General

County General

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 »

Montauk

Montauk

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 »

Whippoorwhill

Whippoorwhill

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 »

Discussion

27 Comments

queenstreet / April 25, 2014 at 02:15 pm
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what about Lot St. ??
TO Drinker / April 25, 2014 at 02:34 pm
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Salt Wine Bar should be on the list, but I guess my write-in vote wasn't enough :). Nick is a fantastic bartender who can whip up some impressively creative and original drinks.

Cocktail Bar shouldn't be number 1 (I know, it's reader-voted), not by a long shot. Limited menu that the bartenders are afraid to depart from in case Agg walks in and berates them for using bourbon instead of rye in an old-fashioned. It may have helped lead Toronto into cocktails, but it's fallen behind the newcomers.

And Brad was fired from Spirit House a couple months ago, so you may want to consider a different picture for the place, seeing as their head bartender is someone else now.
bob loblaw / April 25, 2014 at 02:43 pm
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I get the need for these places to push the envelope to stay current. But I recently experienced some concoction at a local establishment that contained rendered goose fat. It was as you might imagine pretty icky.

So innovate if you must, but the tried and true is often best.
Vic / April 25, 2014 at 03:14 pm
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I guess there needs to be a new site called BlogTOeast. I love these articles, but if you're going to go as far west as Roncesvales from the downtown core, you could at least go a comparable distance east as well. Sure the westend is super trendy right now and there is a lot of new restaurants popping up, but this is like the 10th list I've seen consecutively in recent weeks which barely acknowledges that there is a whole other end to the city.
Ben / April 25, 2014 at 03:17 pm
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I second Lot St, their old fashioned fridays are redic.
gincrazy / April 25, 2014 at 03:20 pm
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Lot Street! best tonic hands down, better vibe than county general as well
Adam / April 25, 2014 at 03:44 pm
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Museum Tavern should get a mention. They have a fully stocked bar with very skilled, passionate people making drinks. Love that place.
Gene Jones / April 25, 2014 at 03:53 pm
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Best cocktails were at TCHC! I hired a bartender for staff! GRRRRREEAT GRRRAVVY! TRRRAAAIN! and it's all thanks to Rob Ford! RFGT RFGT RFGT RFGT RFGT
ROB FORD GRAVY TRAIN
Ryan / April 25, 2014 at 04:42 pm
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WHAT ABOUT {Enter name of place}. THAT'S MY FAVOURITE PLACE.
HOW DARE YOUR TASTES DIFFER FROM MINE.
Japhet / April 25, 2014 at 06:55 pm
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Thanks for the shout-out Jen. Really appreciate it.
evan / April 25, 2014 at 07:22 pm
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0. Toronto Temperance Society
Margy / April 25, 2014 at 08:56 pm
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Gotta say, the Roncy Public mixes a mean Paloma. My drink of choice for the summer.
Margy replying to a comment from Margy / April 25, 2014 at 08:56 pm
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http://www.theroncypublic.com/drinks.php
Kate / April 25, 2014 at 09:58 pm
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College Street Bar's update may have come too late for this list but it's definitely worth checking out! Try the apocalypse - they light stuff on fire and it's awesome!
Are / April 25, 2014 at 10:31 pm
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TTS #1 without a fucking doubt, nobody can come close to Robin Kaufman or Oliver Stern @ TTS. As someone who travels constantly for work, TTS is easily tops in Canada and top 10 in North America. Bar Isabel would be #2 for me, Mike and crew do great passionate things there. Cocktail bar, lol. They hire hipster wannabe bartenders who take orders, no spontaneity there at all, sorry.
Alyssa / April 26, 2014 at 01:47 am
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HOPGOOD'S FOODLINER. Trust me.
Josh Northwood / April 26, 2014 at 11:40 am
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Check the name, Northwood. You think if I acted all non chalant about the situation they'd hook me a pint; on the house?
rajeev r / April 27, 2014 at 08:30 pm
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Lot Street got thee best tonic for sure!
rajeev r
T Mars / April 27, 2014 at 09:32 pm
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Barchef is completely overrated, #3? Not even close.
Jamie / April 27, 2014 at 11:53 pm
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Why the hell is TTS not on this list??
Japhet / April 28, 2014 at 10:31 am
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TTS totally deserves to be on any best-of list but probably not enough blogTO are members or have been invited to go.
loper / May 15, 2014 at 04:17 pm
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What about? How come? Why not? You forgot!
Mark / May 29, 2014 at 02:18 pm
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Seems Boutique Bar is missing from this list...
Yvonne / July 19, 2014 at 02:16 pm
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All the comments are mostly common drinks....Go to JaBistro and see David Mulock - check out his photos on twitter @TheDrinkDoctor to truly see a master of mixology! Also featured in Toronto Life magazine. He rocks!
Em / July 30, 2014 at 08:17 pm
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The dark and stormy's are ON POINT at Cold Tea. The locally brewed ginger beer takes it from 'meh' to 'yehh'.
Curious replying to a comment from TO Drinker / July 30, 2014 at 09:55 pm
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ohhhh that explains a lot of things... went back there two weeks ago and... i felt a little meh... very disappointing they don't keep the freestyle "book" anymore lol
where is brad working now? i'll go pay a visit
k / September 17, 2014 at 12:02 am
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May on Dundas st west has one of the absolute best cocktails ever. They are generous and make beautiful and delicous cocktails with loads of alcohol and fresh juices. Never had better. They should be on the list. They make killer cocktails!

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