The Best Cocktails in Toronto
The best cocktails in Toronto are a testament to the city's robust cocktail culture. The most popular places tend to respect the classics, offering slight tweaks on drinks like the Manhattan, Negroni and Sazerac. Look closely enough 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.
Northwood's bartenders do a fantastic job of building modern cocktails that are based in classic recipees and principles. Coffee and tea regularly make appearances in these drinks, but you'll never see anything that appears hokey or overly trendy. Expect subtle updates to old favourites from the Negroni to the Manhattan.
Toronto's most aesthetically pleasing place is also noteworthy for its delicate touch when it comes to making cocktails. Instead of packing all of their drinks with as much booze as possible, the idea is to offer at least a few options that are well suited for the late afternoon, when you want a cocktail but not to get blizted. Watch for novel ingredients like brown butter, eucalyptus, and tea.
Flashy cocktails built around molecular gastronomy seemed to be a passing phase, but Frankie Solarik's BarChef remains a fixture on Queen West. The Smoked Manhattan is the best-known offering, but staples like the Four Seven Two (bourbon with cola bitters and lime) and the Saffron Sazerac are also exemplary of the playfulness and care that go into the drinks here.
Don't look for a cocktail list at this hard-to-find bar in the Kensington Mall - there isn't one. But what you will find is wonderfuly knowledgeable bartenders who will make you whatever it is that you want or offer suggestions for those who don't have something already in mind. If in doubt, classics like the Old Fashioned, Sazerac, and Negroni are always good here.
The Carbon Bar makes one of the best Old Fashioned cocktails in the city, which is a ringing endorsement for the rest of the list, given that this drink is the foundational status this drink enjoys. The large bar area is a buzzing place in the post-work hours, as patrons sip on offerings built around bourbon, Chartreuse, and amaro.
Affiliated with the Toronto Institute of Bartending, sitting at the bar at Spirit House is like watching bartender pay a visit to an amusement park. The range of liquor on offer here is remarkable, and the knowledgable staff have a field day concocting delicious cocktails that range from boozy 1920s classics to light and refreshing sippers.
It sometimes gets lost in the breadth of Toronto's current cocktail scene but the Harbord Room's Dave Mitton was one of the city's trailblazers when it came to bringing classic cocktails to restaurant and bar lists around these parts. Even as the scene has grown up, you'll still find one of the most assured drink lists in the city here thanks to Josh Lindley's creative mind.
The cocktail list at the Maple Leaf Tavern isn't long, but it covers all the bases with classics like draught Manhattan and a smoked maple syrup Old Fashioned to more refreshing options like the Jasmine (gin, Campari, Cointreau, lemon). Beware of the Rye & Ginger Highball, which goes down easy but still packs a piunch.
It's only fitting that the folks behind Boxcar Social have a dedicated cocktail bar. There aren't many places in Toronto as dedicated to the finer details of drink preparation than here. Aside from the liquor, everything is made in-house, which shines through with unique bitters and infusions. The list is modern but eschews trendiness in favour of subtle updates to classic drinks.
The low-lit, wood-accented room is the prefect place to settle into a boozy cocktail once the sun has set. The menu is classically themed but features less popular examples of old school cocktails than you'll find at most places. Two fabourites include the winter julep (made with bourbon, mint tea, and brown sugar) and the the Rosethorn (with Dillon's rose gin).
Alo's cocktails are best described as refined. Much like the primary tasting menu and the carefully chosen wine list, the name of the game here is attention to detail. The French-inspired cocktail list features eight house drinks and a selection of vintage concoctions that travel from Paris to New Orleans.
Named for the graffiti-strewn alley that runs behind the bar, Rush Lane is kind of the opposite of this messy bit of urban eclecticism. On the contrary, here you'll find a veritable Top Gun of bartending talent who strive to craft perfectly balanced cocktails. The list is modern and inventive but resists going full out into molecular mixology territory.
The tie- and vest-clad bartenders risk being caricatures of themselves at this Bloorcourt bar, but there's an obvious pride taken in playing the role, and the drinks they turn out are undeniably accomplished. There's no set drink list here, so you'll want discuss what you're in the mood with upon arrival.
It's a testament to the rise of cocktail culture in Toronto that this Black Hoof offshoot isn't at the top of a list like this. You'd be hard-pressed to find a place that takes more care in making classically inspired drinks than here. You'll have to wait a few minutes to get your prize, but it's entirely worth it when you taste cocktails like the Manhattan and Negroni here.
The Lockhart gets plenty of points for one of the most playful cocktail lists around. This is not a place to go if you're doing a Don Draper routine. On the contrary, the elixirs here are meant to conjure up the worlf of Harry Potter for fun-going guests who don't take their boozy beverages overly seriously.
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