16 Best Bars in Toronto

BY TODD PLUMMER for cntraveler on June 22, 2018

Wondering where to grab a drink when you're in town? We've got you.

It’s difficult to identify Toronto’s bar scene as any one thing in particular. Today, this sprawling metropolis is both a monument to its traditional past and a breeding ground for its progressive future future—and that permeates everything. When it comes to grabbing a stool and ordering a drink, Canada’s largest city has something for everyone. Note the thriving craft beer and cider scene, and the world-class wine cellars; make some time to sample some high-concept mixology, and everything in between. If you’re looking for a few places to knock a few back on your next trip, the only challenge will be pinpointing where to start. Luckily, our editors have rounded up our favorite Toronto bars for you, so you won't be debating where to go for long.

Finn O'Hara

Finn O'Hara

Mahjong Bar

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People love this speakeasy for its quirky entrance: a pink, neon-lit bodega straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. Walk through a key-shaped back door and you'll enter the main bar area, complete with checkered floors, a tropical mural, and a gleaming lacquered bar that turns out cheekily named cocktails such as the Lady Bird, a concoction of vodka, nashi pear, thyme, Strega, anisette, and lemon—described on the menu as "A much tastier coping mechanism than throwing yourself out of a moving car."

Connie Tsang

Connie Tsang

Birreria Volo

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With a long, narrow space that's mostly standing-room-only, large barrels topped with marble, and a buzzy crowd of enthusiastic beer drinkers, Volo is a refined, European take on the traditional craft-brew bar. A wide and varied drinks list favors European beers, barrel-aged beers, and unique selections like Italian grape ales; a small, tidy snacks menu includes antipasti. Servers are well-versed in the menu's esoteric offerings and will guide you toward just the right choice.

Courtesy The Drake Hotel

Courtesy The Drake Hotel

Sky Yard at The Drake Hotel

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The Drake Hotel dates back to the 1890s, when it was the posh place to stay for wealthy Torontonians. In the 20th century, it fell on hard times until 2001, when hospitality impresario Jeff Stober bought it and gut-renovated it. Today, the Drake—Canada's answer to Ace or Soho House—remains the standard-bearer for cool. Fittingly, the restaurant lounge, the go-to spot for Toronto's creative elite, is a vision in cozy-meets-industrial midcentury design. During the warmer months, the Sky Yard rooftop bar is the hippest place around for an al fresco cocktail with killer views of the skyline.

Craft Beer Market

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If ever there was a temple to Canadian beer, Craft is it. The small, Canada-only chain has five locations out west and one in Ottawa; this outpost is on Yonge and Adelaide in downtown Toronto. About 60 percent of the beers here are sourced from the region immediately surrounding Toronto—popular, hyperlocal southern Ontario pours like Oasthouse Hef's Big Wood Hefeweizen. Beyond that are other well-known options from around Canada, including the Aphrodite Stout from Dieu Du Ciel, a beloved Montreal microbrewery, as well as classics like Guinness and a bunch of drinkable IPAs.

Alexa Fernando

Alexa Fernando

El Rey Mezcal Bar

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El Rey is bedecked in rough-hewn woods, glazed terracotta tiles, and exposed brick, and its potent mezcal cocktails are fun and flavorful—or better yet, go for a mezcal tasting flight. A menu of snacks and small plates features everything from smoked marlin tostadas and crispy squid tacos to spiced popcorn, briny marinated cucumbers, and blistered shishito peppers. Larger Oaxacan offerings include an excellent tlayuda, a grilled tortilla dolloped in whipped pork lard then topped with cabbage, beans, quesillo, and thinly sliced beef tasajo. El Rey's potent mezcal cocktails are fun and flavorful. Try the El Niño, a mix of mezcal, fino, lime, grapefruit, kaffir, and habañero—or better yet, go for a mezcal flight. If you want to lean more classic, the margaritas and palomas are just as well-made.

Luke Truman

Luke Truman

Paris Paris

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Located in a former art gallery space, this all-day wine bar has giant plate-glass windows that let in light. The interior design features exposed brick, lots of wood, industrial bar stools, and potted plants, creating an atmosphere that's at once relaxed and refined. Pass over the simple mixed drinks for the wines. The list, which tends to favor New World and biodynamic winemakers, offers about 30 options by the glass and 150 bottles ranging from $45 to $350. You can order from the full menu until midnight, at which point the kitchen downshifts to bar snacks. Try the chicken liver mousse tartine—grilled sourdough bread with shaved cremini mushrooms and a drizzle or honey—or the roast half chicken with piri piri and grey salt.

Worker Bee Supply

Worker Bee Supply

The Rooftop at the Broadview Hotel

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Torontonians love to argue about which side of the downtown core is cooler, but the west side often gets the hot new developments and buzzworthy bars. So when The Broadview Hotel opened on the east side last year, it made waves—not just because it brought a historic Romanesque Revival building back to its former glory, but also because it introduced one of the best rooftop bars in the city. The funky midcentury interiors are comfortable and quirky, without overshadowing the staggering views of the skyline. Whimsical yet drinkable cocktails such as Becky With The Good Hair, a blend of vodka, orange and carrot juices, coconut water, lemon, allspice syrup, and charred rosemary, and The Canadian Tuxedo, a blend of Tanqueray 10, Tio Pepe Fino sherry, Sorry Not Sorry cordial, absinthe, green tea, and lime. There's also a modest wine list, but cocktails are really the way to go.

Poor Romeo

Poor Romeo is part cocktail bar, part beer hall, with rock references on the drinks list (Gin Lizzy, Beast of Bourbon) and a house-made piña colada swirling around in a slushie machine. Tap and bottled beers range from well-known to super-obscure local microbrews. For a joint with such a dicey, divey vibe, the menu is actually quite good, with a shrimp cocktail, P.E.I. oysters, corn chips with cheddar jack queso, and smashed burgers oozing with cheese.

Alexa Fernando

Alexa Fernando

Bar Isabel

Bar Isabel takes its beer, wine, and cocktails all very seriously. Critics call the craft-beer list one of the best in Toronto, and have given similar accolades to the wines. Cocktails have Spanish influences; the Isabel Fashioned, for example, is a heady blend of bourbon, Spanish brandy, sugar, and bitters. You can opt for a full sit-down dinner in the back room, but the real action happens in the front bar, which serves a solid range of tapas and pintxos. Try the raw scallops with spicy ahi amarillo or the Instagram-worthy whole-grilled octopus. The drinks, the food, and décor combine to create a truly sexy bar. Start your night here—then see where it goes.

Lisa Poshni

Lisa Poshni

Her Father's Cider Bar + Kitchen

The cellar at Her Father's, a low-key neighborhood bar, stocks more than 100 types of cider, making it the top destination for cider-lovers in Toronto. While most bottles hail from Canada, there are also reliable crowd pleasers and unique varieties from around the world. The brunch, dinner, and snacks attract as many regulars as the ciders. Try the juniper-and-scallion lamb nuggets for dinner, or the smoked trout Benedict at brunch (which you can pair with a hot mulled cider).

Get Well

Located in the heart of the trendy Trinity-Bellwoods neighborhood, Get Well is a dive bar that offers a winning combo of loud music, great beer, pizza, and arcade games. Although you can't go wrong with a shot and a beer or a classic mixed drink, and you can also sample from the ever-changing lineup of craft brews, which includes fruity sours and funky ciders from local producers. Soak it up with a slice of New York–style pizza from North of Brooklyn, an aptly named neighborhood favorite.

Leanne Neufeld

Leanne Neufeld

BarChef

BarChef's menu spells out its philosophy: mixology should be "an immersive, memorable, nostalgic, and emotional drinking experience." The vast, varied drinks list, which is partitioned into sections like Sipping Cocktails and Modernist Cocktails, makes that a reality. The barrel-aged cocktails are particularly noteworthy, especially the luscious Fig Thief, a blend of fig-infused rum, Madeira, dry vermouth, cacao bitters, and star anise. For spirits purists, BarChef also excels at great drams of whiskey; it stocks top-notch bottles from Ireland, Scotland, Japan, India, Sweden, and, of course, Canada.

Courtesy DBar

Courtesy DBar

dbar

Stepping into dbar, the ground-floor bar at the Four Seasons Hotel, is an experience; the 20-foot floor-to-ceiling glass windows make a dramatic statement, and the neutral, low-slung furniture gives Yorkville's poshest patrons the chance to shine. Cocktails are straightforward, potent, and well executed, from the classics (martinis, Manhattans) to house drinks like The Pink Perk ($20), a heady mix of Stolichnaya vodka, strawberries, and prosecco. You can also order wine from the European-focused list at neighboring Café Boulud.

Bovine Sex Club

Nothing screams "metal bar" quite like a façade emblazoned with more eviscerated bike frames and machine parts than a scrap yard. Even from the exterior, "the Bovine" makes an impression. Open since 1991, this is one of Toronto's most iconic rock bars; Lenny Kravitz, U2, The Strokes, Foo Fighters, Guns N' Roses, Kings of Leon, and Mötley Crüe have all played here. With live music almost every night, the institution always has something worth checking out. Fun mixed drinks, including piña coladas and mai-tais, are a nice option in summer, when the rooftop patio is open. The beers and spirits are pretty standard, but you're not here for high-concept mixology.

Brilynn Ferguson

Brilynn Ferguson

Cold Tea

Cold Tea—whose name nods to the Chinese restaurants that would serve beer disguised in teapots afterhours—is so hidden within Kensington Mall that it could almost be called a speakeasy. LED and fluorescent lights gleam on tiled white walls; in the warmer months, the back patio is one of the neighborhood's best places to see and be seen. Kensington's affluent hipsters can't get their fill of Cold Tea's tasty cocktails and dim sum. The cocktails don't take themselves too seriously. La Flama Blanca, a blend of chili-infused tequila, pineapple, and mint, is ideal in summer, and there are a couple of craft brews on tap, too.

Courtesy Burdock

Courtesy Burdock

Burdock

Burdock feels more like a boho friend's house than a bar—if said friend also happened to have a live music hall and a restaurant. Somehow, though, the space still manages to feel intimate and refined. Beer's the name of the game here; the diverse mix includes Belgian sours, beers aged in whiskey barrels, Imperial stouts, various ales, ciders, and—wait for it—even a ginger kombucha on tap. If you like whatever you're drinking, pick up a bottle from the adjacent shop.

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