Top 5 bars in… Toronto

31st May, 2016 by admin

The diversity of Canada’s biggest city is mirrored in its variety of cocktails and bars, which offer a winning combination of the old and the new, writes Brittany Seki.

Toronto bars are inspired by the city past and present

Toronto bars are inspired by the city past and present

Toronto is known for having a rich diversity, and when it comes to its melting pot of colourful cocktails and bars there’s no exception. The lines are blurred between the historical and the modern, and the local and the globally-inspired. Throw in a base of the city’s past with a shot of unconventional techniques and you’ve got the recipe for a signature downtown bar. Whether searching for a simple apéritif or a 10-piece sweet and sour, Torontonians always find what they’re thirsting for.

Even during the national prohibition of alcohol, in 1918, the city continued to quench its thirst in bold ways. As part of the Canadian War Measures Act during World War One, Gooderham and Worts (now the renowned Distillery District), one of Toronto’s first and largest distilleries, was forced to reallocate its resources to produce acetone for the war effort. However, that didn’t stop the company from selling whisky to bootleggers like notorious mob boss Rocco Perri and his lover Bessie Starkman. These rum runners sold the goods to ‘speakeasies’ or ‘blind pigs’ that began popping up in secret locations, where the illegal spirits were sold privately to placate the victims of Prohibition.

Modern-day Toronto has seen the return of the speakeasy theme, paying homage to bootlegging legends such as Perri (who went missing in 1944). Cocktails focus on both the pre- and post-Prohibition era, offering classics like Old Fashioneds and Manhattans.

In 1934, selling alcohol became legal in hotels, which meant great news for some of Toronto’s vintage wet spots, like the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, The Drake Hotel and The Gladstone Hotel. The legacies these venues hold are preserved in the traditional cocktails and early 20th century architecture. Yet what keeps the fires burning for these bars is the collaboration of the old and the new, a cocktail evolution to rival even New York’s bar scene.

Revolutionary local bartenders are inspired by the classics but add a touch of contemporary flair to tasty new concoctions. Even service is changing – some locations remove table service and menus altogether, creating a bond between bartender and customer as they collaborate to discover a personalised drink. On the other side, establishments such as BarChef provide an all-encompassing experience of the senses, pairing tastes, smells, presentation and even touch with the spirits offered. Icy cold winters in this city are no secret, and tiki-themed cocktails (in pineapples!) and bars provide a warm remedy for Torontonians.

No matter what their taste, patrons can walk into any cocktail bar in Toronto and find a drink just for them.

Click through the next few pages to discover our pick of the top five best bars in Toronto.

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