While the temperature is dropping in Toronto, the city's bar scene is just heating up. Long known for its craft beer scene, Toronto is increasingly morphing into a destination for innovative cocktails, served up in decadent and dive-y settings alike. The city is also in the midst of a love affair with speakeasies, as well as British-style gastropubs. Here's our look at where to drink in Toronto right now.
This new bar embraces many hipster trends of the moment, including bacon, reclaimed wood, and psychic readings. The Libertine, a speakeasy-inspired lounge, offers a bar menu by Chef Léonie Lilla, an alum of Momofuku. The cocktails incorporate unusual ingredients like root beer, strawberries, and, yep, bacon. If after a few drinks, you'd like to tempt fate, The Libertine also has an in-house psychic, as well as a wheel of fortune.
THE COCKTAIL PARLOR
Set up in a converted warehouse, The Cocktail Parlor is the latest venue from the team behind Toronto hot spots Patria and Weslodge. The space looks like it was transplanted from Brooklyn, with distressed wood floors and exposed brick. The cocktail menu is big and ambitious; there's absinthe, plus homemade infusions and liqueurs incorporating everything from tobacco to saffron. Drinks are creatively named—try "Stormin' in Like a Jerk," a combination of jerk-spiced rum, fresh lime juice, house ginger beer, cinnamon, and thyme, with a splash of chili.
Located in trendy Dundas West, Montauk Bar has an industrial dive look, complete with exposed pipes, metal stools, and a poured concrete-topped bar. The wine list is exclusively from Ontario, and a rotating group of guest bartenders do duty behind the bar. Try their signature drink, "The Montauk"—a combo of rye, dry vermouth, Averna, Maraschino liqueur, bitters, and orange blossom water. The only food served is house-made beef jerky, but Montauk Bar also hosts pop-up restaurants if you need more than jerky to line your stomach.
Part of a wave of British-inspired gastropubs, The Oxley is the place to tuck into classic British fare like fish and chips, or stout-braised beef chuck. The impressive drinks menu includes beer, wine, cider, and cocktails, like "My First Time," a combo of London Dry Gin, Campari, fresh grapefruit juice, lemon, egg white, ginger, and thyme syrup.
If you're looking for a laid-back evening out, head to Weldon Park. This bar doesn't take itself too seriously (i.e., barstools are upholstered in Astroturf), but if you head to the back, near the dance floor, the drinks menu gets serious (and seriously creative). Sip on a "Witches' Gland," a blend of ingredients like Beefeater gin, pumpkin-spiced grenadine, orange juice, and Strega. For nibbles, Weldon Park's bar menu includes tasty treats like house-made pickles and spicy chickpeas.