Experts' Picks: Toronto's Best Tried and True Cocktail Bars
Two local experts share their can't-miss picks for where and what to drink when you're in town.
Toronto's cocktail scene is booming. Or as Scott McCallum and Victoria Walsh, the authors of "A Field Guide to Canadian Cocktails" would say, you'd need to be here for a couple of months if you wanted to sip your way through every cocktail bar, tavern, and drink-savvy eatery. Worry not, thirsty traveler: these two connoisseurs have done the heavy lifting for you. Here are five tried-and-true Toronto venues not to miss, including the libations worth quaffing within each when you're next in town.
Hoof Cocktail Bar
McCallum and Walsh pay their dues to Jen Agg, the owner behind the watering hole that she's kept separate from her much-lauded restaurant, the Black Hoof. By pushing cocktail culture here, she's created a prohibition-era style room that's elegant and welcoming.
Try: The Lavender Hound, a delicious combination of lavender gin, red grapefruit, and lemon juices with a touch of Maldon sea salt. And the Manhattan; the cherries and bitters are all made in-house, rendering this one of the city's best. Seasonal surprises like the Celery Rickey are worth asking after, too.
You'll enjoy Bar Raval as much for its impeccable cocktail list as for its delicious Spanish bites. The vibe is all Barcelona and Gaudi revival, with a rotating cocktail menu that's put together by a knowledgeable team, including two of the city's best bar keeps.
Try: A Spanish sherry or vermouth-based mix, or an envelope-pushing, adventurous cocktail, always welcomed with a bar snack or two. When it's time to cleanse the palate, Walsh suggests you order a Spanish cava with a splash of vermouth to set you up for savoring every bite of dinner.
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On the third floor of a historic Victorian in the heart of the Fashion District sits the slick yet welcoming bar lounge of Alo. McCallum and Walsh recommend you pull up a stool where bartender Sarah Parniak is known to graciously host guests. Not sure what to order? Ask Parniak. She perfectly pairs cocktails to the restaurant's beautifully conceived bar menu.
Insider Tip: Parniak is also a drinks writer in the city who, according to Walsh, is astutely aware of cocktail trends and ingredients; her findings usually work their way into her creations too.
In tony Yorkville, head to the Italo-centric Bar Buca for a memorable meal, kicking the night off with a superb cocktail.
Try: A classic Italian cocktail made with top notch amaros and Italian liqueurs that pair wonderfully with the regional dishes on offer. Seasonal, savory cocktails, like the early fall beet-based drink made with a swirl of olive oil, are also flavorful, good bets.
Insider Tip: Not able to imbibe? Walsh wants you to know that their mocktail program is impressive, inventive, and fresh.
In the city's Financial District, this chic resto-bar features drinks created by individual staff members, as noted on the cocktail menu.
Try: Modern classics like the Paper Plane: with equal parts amaro, lemon juice, Aperol, and bourbon, it'll ensure you start the night off right.
Mary Luz Mejia covers Toronto for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter.