When I first learned that we would have to be in Toronto for work for 3 months I was a bit skeptical. Don’t hate me, but I feel like sometimes North American big cities just end up looking all the same. But oh, how wrong was I! Toronto is a beauty of a city, with extraordinary restaurants with international cuisines, incredible cocktail bars, vibrant neighborhoods, and all at the edge of Lake Ontario.
One of my favorite things about this city is just how available everything is. Feel like having Thai food? Just around the corner. Craving some pizza with Mozzarella di Bufala? Two blocks away. Feel like a gin sour and oysters? Across the street. You get the picture. Everything you could wish for is there, waiting for you to discover it.
If you would go to Toronto downtown on google maps and look for cocktail bars you would be inundated with options. So, to make your life easier, I went through the hard task of trying a few of the most interesting bars I could find. After extensive research and cocktail tasting on Friday nights after work, here are my top 5 of the best bars in Toronto for cocktail lovers, like me.
Melrose on Adelaide
This was my absolute favorite place when it came to the drinks themselves. The cocktails were always just insanely delicious and beautifully presented.
They change their menu seasonally, so you will always find something new. Luckily I got there in-between seasons, so I got to try a little bit from both, and nothing ever disappointed.
They also have a food menu with some tapas, oysters, and charcuterie boards. The place has a cozy ambiance with low light and candles on every table.
My one thing with this place is … drumroll … their service. Most often than not the waiters were rude and always seemed impatient, even if the place was empty. But the cocktails were so good I kept coming back anyway.
The Cloak Bar
The Cloak Bar is a beautiful room with a speakeasy feel to it. Classy, but still very warm and welcoming.
I went there with a big group of friends, we all ordered different drinks from the menu and no one had one complaint. But the all-around winner at our table was their “Jalisco sour”. It is so delicious you need to remind yourself that it contains alcohol and you should probably slow down.
Contrary to the Melrose, here the staff was a dream. The waiter was truly friendly, and helpful when it came to explaining and recommending drinks. They genuinely do make you feel right at home. I have only good things to say all around.
If there is just one tiny thing, is that their drinks are on the pricier side. But for a special night, is worth it.
Coffee Oysters Champagne
Okay, so imagine Blair Waldorf’s dream bar; classy, feminine, with a French touch, and a bar packed with all sorts of fancy bubbly. That is exactly what COC is. Is a rosegold room, so aesthetically pleasing it makes it hard to look down at the menu long enough to pick something.
This Toronto gem is hidden away on the basement level of a townhouse, with a little patio for the warmer months, complete with French bistro chairs.
As the name suggests, you can make your way here in the morning for a coffee and some pastries. Or dress up for a special evening of oysters and champagne.
Stay alert though, there is more than meets the eye here. If you know what I mean. Two words: Champagne room.
I know, such an original name. I was so confused when a friend told me to “meet him at the Cocktail Bar” and I was standing there like “sure, but which one?” Cocktail Bar is straight forward with its name because they are straight forward with their drinks.
The place is small and cozy, nothing pretentious. They are not trying to sell how good they are behind the bar with the fanciness of the exterior. They let the drinks speak for themselves.
The Cocktail bar is a simple and welcoming space to stop by after dinner with friends. To take off the formal jacket, have a drink, and really catch up. Ask for the outdoor patio spot for a group of friends, or sit inside for a date night in a cozy corner overlooking the bar.
Every drink we had from the menu was 10/10. But if nothing on the menu catches your eye you can always ask the bar to make you a classic drink or something specific. The staff is really friendly and ready to accommodate your cocktail cravings. My favorite is a gin sour. It was * chef’s kiss*.
This one comes with an amazing bonus, first of all, is a restaurant. A Mexican restaurant. And the tacos are out of this world good! Trust me I’m Mexican.
Why is this on the bar list then? Because their margaritas are delicious and they also serve my absolute favorite drink that you would not find anywhere else but in a Mexican restaurant; micheladas.
Michelada is this interesting concoction of sweet, sour, spicy, and beer. You start with preparing the rim of a glass with lemon and then dipping it in Tajin, a sweet-sour chili Mexican powder. Then you add lemon juice generously into the glass (for us Mexicans lemon is the green one, the other one is yellow lemon). You add a splash of tomato juice, salt, a touch of some spicy sauce, I love Valentina, and a bit of Maggi Sauce. Not sure why about the last ingredient but it tastes good. And lastly, your choice of ice-cold beer. End result: Mexican summer in a glass.
Every time I have a Michelada, anywhere in the world, that first sip always tastes like being home. Is one of those nostalgic things that just transports me back. So I recommend it to everyone to at least give it a try. And you can never go wrong with some guacamole and chips, or queso fundido with chorizo.
*Most bars in Canada automatically add a tip percentage to your bill. And sometimes quite a high one (20-25%). Always check the small print on the menu or bill for that information so you don’t get a bad surprise.
Let me know if you visit any of these, or have another favorite in mind.