The Best Whisky Bars in Toronto
The best whisky bars in Toronto have been something of an unfashionable bunch recently, what with the resurgence in rum and the bourbon trend taking all the brown spirit headlines for the last couple of years. It doesn't help that Scotch whisky is one of the most expensive spirits in the world. That said, nothing really matches Scotch for complexity, so get thee to a whisky bar.
Here are the best whisky bars in Toronto.
This Upper Beaches pub is the closest you'll get to the real deal, at least without flying across the Atlantic. Since 1981 this brass and red velvet-clad gem has been pouring from a huge selection of drams to its thirsty regulars. With over 400 whiskies from over 100 distilleries, there's plenty to choose from, but if you get a bit lost navigating their massive list, they have specially designed 'whisky tour' flights to give you an overview of the main regions.
It's hard to discuss Scotch without referring to the unbelievable selection at this institution on the Queensway. Via Allegro not only has one of the best wine cellars in Toronto, but easily the largest whisky selection in the GTA, with over 1000 bottles, including an outrageous Macallan vertical dating back to 1937. Winner of countless awards, including Whisky Magazine's 'Best Scotch List in the World', if Via Allegro don't have it, then I have no idea who does.
Undoubtedly the best Scottish bar in the city, The Caledonian's reputation isn't solely down to its impeccable whisky list and tasting nights. Proprietor Donna Wolff is the consummate host, making guests feel like a million bucks first, and worrying about the whisky later. With over 200 bottles on hand, they also provide tasting notes to make the experience a bit more accessible. It's also the best place for women who love whisky, hosting regular all-girl sampling nights.
Sadly, the Montreal outpost of this bartender's playground didn't last long, but the Toronto spot is still going strong. It might not have the largest whisky list mentioned here, but SpiritHouse does service right, with 2oz pours, and an excellent range of international and Canadian whiskies. Affiliated with the Toronto Institute of Bartending, the staff are all enthusiastic and knowledgeable as well.
A little further up the street from the Caledonian on College is this outstanding jazz hole, run by avid whisky enthusiast Andrew Kaiser. There's over 75 scotch whiskies to choose from out of a huge list of over 240 whiskies altogether, and few would argue that they are the most reasonably priced anywhere in town. If you like a little live music with your dram, this is your spot.
Open since 1987, Allen's has been synonymous with excellent food and whisky on the Danforth, although it's actually a part of Joe Allen's original New York watering hole. There's well over 100 Scotch whiskies to choose from, and one of the best burgers in the city if you need something to fill your belly as you navigate the bottles.
Located on Front Street near St. Lawrence Market, CC Lounge is the flashiest spot on this list by some distance, with go-go dancers in cages to keep you entertained while you sip, if that's your thing. CC Lounge is, in actual fact, more of a Canadian whisky bar than a single malt joint, with the Scottish stuff relegated to 'International' towards the back of the menu. That said, they have bottle service if you have the pockets for it.
Tucked deep in the bowels of the Royal York, the Library Bar has a fantastic whisky service to complement its old school charm. Service is spotless, glassware is gorgeous, and the short but sweet list is well-picked, with whiskies divided by flavour profile rather than region. The kicker? You can buy a bottle and keep it behind the bar here, so there's a dram waiting for you whenever you need it.
Named for the sweet-spot in the seven point char scale for toasting the inside of whiskey barrels (they age best this way), this new bar located in the Delta Hotel on Simcoe is actually a Canadian Whisky bar, with a Canadian theme coursing through its veins. It's fitting that a post that began with lamenting the waning popularity in Scotch would finish with a bar entirely dedicated to a different spirit altogether.
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