Civil Liberties is a rather mysterious bar on Bloor near Ossington. Its vaguery lies mainly in the signage that adorns its rather quiet exterior, a pineapple centred above the front window and an awning that cheekily reads "This must be the place." However, once you get inside, the place is usually anything but quiet or understated.
Many people I know affectionately call it "pineapple bar" or "tiki bar" which shows what a strong vibe the place presents, making the pineapple outside less of a random signal and more of a statement piece.
They're known for making elaborate cocktails based on the whims of customers, and I've heard everything ranging from "something sweet" to getting over a cold.
Nick Kennedy, owner and head bar back, pours a pineapple-y mixture over crushed ice into a tall, curvy glass for the customer who asked for something sweet, executing feats of flair bartending behind the bar top covered in Canadian pennies. They fit with the copper that glistens around the bar in the form of pineapple cups and bartending tools.
Behind the bar their huge array of spirits is displayed, and on the very top shelf are witchy jars of dried ingredients like bay leaves, rose petals, hops, eucalyptus, and beet root.
Old silent movies play on the walls, and there's a small stage with a piano where bands take up residency for PWYC performances, holding a few tables when vacated. Prepare to sit at the bar or stand.
Since they don't really have a defined cocktail list, expect your custom creation to run somewhere in the neighbourhood of $15 after taxes.
For $13 we sample a cocktail inspired by after-work beers with the team over at Alo , and the link is in the hopped vermouth in the Buffalo Trace-based cocktail. It brings the beers aspect up a notch with elevated Benedictine and orange and Agnostura bitters.
Our second drink also winds up at $13 and is nicknamed a Sherry Cobbler, cinnamon and orange bitters lending a Christmas spice profile to this crushed ice cocktail.
Edible snap pea flowers appropriately add to its celebratory feel, and a sprig of mint enhances both the aesthetic and aromatic qualities of this drink served in a metal cup. It's an ounce each of Lustau Amantillado and Barbania Manzanilla with a half ounce of Demerara sugar.
They have a small menu of bar snacks that are reasonable in price, like a basic hummus made with lemon and paprika for $7, served with plain tortilla chips. It's nothing special, but the paprika gives it a little punch and it disappears quickly.
For $4 grab meaty warm olives or a "toasty," a simple grilled cheese that's the port in a storm of plenty of over-indulgers, made with stretchy American slices and served with regular old ketchup.