Toronto’s Best Cocktail Bars

People often forget about Canada. It’s America’s charming neighbor to the north, home to Rye Whiskey, stellar basketball players, and the Prime Minister with the good hair. But as of lately, it’s become a really, really great place to drink. Trash Tiki’s Kelsey Ramage and Iain Griffiths opened up their first permanent bar, The Supernova Ballroom, here. Bar Raval is an artfully-designed Spanish spot with a focus on Vermouth and Sherry, and restaurateur/author Jen Agg has opened two new projects: one, a pasta spot with an extensive Highball menu, and the other, a take on a greasy spoon.

For our series on drinking through the Great White North, we present you with the best places to sip and savor in Toronto.  

Mother

Mother Cocktail Bar
Photo: @mothercocktailbar on Instagram

Mother is not your average bar. Sure, they’ve got Pina Coladas on the menu, but it’s made with caramelized yogurt. The Negroni? With Lacto-fermented plums. The bar puts a focus on fermentation, via cerebral processes and forward-thinking experimentation. But just as that may sound unapproachable, you don’t need to be a spirits nerd to enjoy a visit: all drinks are super quaffable and the bar staff serves them with cheeky smiles.

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties Toronto
Photo: Civil Liberties on Facebook

The only thing to guide you to Civil Liberties is a glowing pineapple and a Doors quote – this must be the place. And it is – it has been voted one of the city’s, and often the country’s, best bars since it opened. There are no menus here: bartenders drive the bespoke drink program to match guests’ palates. Simply state your spirit of choice and what flavors you’re searching for and drinks will be made to meet your mood. 

Black Dice: 

Black Dice Toronto
Photo: @blackdicecafe on Instagram

This Japanese-rockabilly bar feels seemingly pulled from a movie: surf rock flows out of the jukebox through the tiny neon space, while veteran bartender Hideki Saito bounces behind the bar, often with a massive pompadour ‘do. Sake is on draft here, and small carafes of it, or perhaps neon blue calpico sodas, will balance above 1950s pinball machines while off-duty bartenders from across the city challenge each other to a game or two. In a city with a serious craft cocktail scene, Black Dice is a hole-in-the-wall haven for cool drinkers.

Nice Nice: 

Nice Nice Toronto
Photo: @nicenicewine on Instagram

One of the newest additions to Toronto’s drinking scene isn’t just a bar, but a burger joint-wine bar hybrid. The front of the building houses Extra Burger, a no-fuss burger chain that churns out gooey cheeseburgers and crinkle-cut fries. Slip through a curtain in the back for natural, organic, and local wines by the glass in an intimate setting. 

Bar Raval: 

Bar Raval Toronto
Photo: @bar_raval on Instagram

Another classic Toronto cocktail spot, much of the draw of this College Street bar is the billowing mahogany interiors, seemingly pulled from the brain of Gaudi. Thoughtful conservas and Spanish pintxos mean come hungry, but no matter what, be sure to drink your way through the impressive list of imported Vermouths and Sherries. 

Supernova Ballroom: 

Supernova Ballroom Toronto
Photo: @supernovaballroom on Instagram

The duo behind Trash Tiki, a globe-trotting sustainability collective, opened up their first-ever permanent spot late last year, nestled in a historic, church-like building in the heart of downtown. Sustainability sits at the forefront here, in the form of local sourcing, house-made fermented drinks, and zero-waste mentality. But don’t expect anything banal: drinks are cheeky, and nod to the disco era, with details like lightning bolt-shaped orange peels and edible glitter. A particular stand-out is the Little Thief G&T, an umami-heavy G&T made with a type of Little Thief seaweed from the east coast of Canada. 

Kate Dingwall
Kate Dingwallhttps://www.kate-dingwall.com/
Kate Dingwall is a writer and editor, primarily covering the spirits and travel world. Her work has appeared in Forbes.com, Wine Enthusiast, Liquor.com, MAXIM Magazine, DuJour Magazine, Eater, VinePair, Culture Trip, Canada's 100 Best Restaurants, and a number of other publications, online and print. Outside of writing, she is a sommelier and an avid martini drinker.
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