From local dives to classy clubs, we’re taking you on a booze cruise with our favorite bartenders serving up custom cocktails from around the world.
Smoke Signals Barbecue
Smoke Signals Barbecue
Smoke Signals Barbecue has opened up in Toronto’s emerging Dundas West neighborhood. If there is a better way to spend chilly winter evenings than eating copious amounts of red meat then feel free to lets us know, until then catch us (& our food babies) at Smoke Signals any and all evenings.
The squad set us up with an exclusive cocktail, the 13th Floor Elevator and though it may look summery, trust us that it hits the spot in any season:
13th Floor Elevator:
Smoked black tea
1.5oz Peach Schnapps
The Looking Glass
The Looking Glass
Situated on Hackney Road in the heart of East London, the Looking Glass Cocktail Club Shoreditch was opened in February 2011 by owners William Knowles-Mofford and Marco Zanottois, and owes much of their success to pure word of mouth and an impressive menu. Offering a more relaxed environment than more traditional speakeasies, the dimly lit cocktail club is full of lush seating options and plenty of room to stand or dance. Loosely based around the theme of parallel universes in Lewis Carol’s Through the Looking Glass, the venue is divided into two rooms, accessed by passing through a large and ornate mirror. Playing host to any number of performances from dj’s to burlesque shows, there’s always a good reason to stop in for a drink.
Marco was kind enough to take time out on a busy night to show us how the pros do it:
Combine the following in a shaker with ice and serve on the rocks to make the I’ll Be Thelma, You Be Louise:
10ml King’s Ginger
20ml peach or blackberry shrub
15ml lemon juice
Out of a star-studded past comes The Diamond, our newest favourite haunt in Gastown, Vancouver. Known in a past-life for celebrity, drama and a little danger, the newly refurbished bar channels it’s history into a rich aesthetic and unique interior. The main room features bar and table service while the Happy Hour backroom provides a more intimate lounge space to explore the robust menu. It’s this same back room that reveals hints of its darker past in the form of bullet holes in the wall. But don’t believe us, go check it out for yourself!
The guys at The Diamond whipped up a special cocktail just for us. Thanks to them, we’re thinking the West Coast might just be the Best Coast? Fight it out in the comments..
50 mls of Longtable barrel aged gin
10 mls of Odd Society bittersweet vermouth
5 mls of Benedictine
1 dash of Orange bitters
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Express the oils of an orange peel over top
416 Snack Bar
416 Snack bar
Hungry but not that hungry? Cue 416 Snack bar. This genius Queen staple is known for serving small bites and great drinks to an always very full house. We’re not joking, the small bar consistently has people sitting on the window frame and queuing up on the street on any given day of the week. The 416 team has been so successful that they have gone on to make a second restaurant, People’s Eatery, in Chinatown that is a bit more upscale (and spacious). But 416 will remain a fav if you’re looking to eat something good and be cozy while doing it.
We skipped the line up —as per usual ;) — and got the dreamy manager of 416 Snack bar, Daniel Sanchez, to make us one of his favourite drinks:
2oz Canadian rye whiskey (in this case Wiser's Deluxe Rye Whiskey)
0.25oz Fernet Branca
0.25oz simple syrup
Two dashes of Angostura bitters
Stirred, strained into a chilled coupe, garnished with an orange zest.
Paper Plane (in the old fashioned glass)
0.75oz Amaro Nonino
0.75oz Lemon juice
Shaken, strained over ice into an old fashioned glass. No garnish. The original is strained into a chilled coupe but we do ours on ice because of our laid-back atmosphere.
Who: Benny Young
Where: The Hoxton, Apt 200 & Locals Only - Toronto
Can we say resident hottie without sounding like we’re 15? We think so. Especially when it applies to Benny Young, resident hottie of The Hoxton, Apt 200 and the recently opened Locals Only. The former two venues together—largely responsible for the international recognition of Toronto’s cool—have been witness to appearances from a long list of performers. This includes the likes of Majid Jordan, Kaytranada, Ram Riddlez, HRMXNY, and Drake (on the same night as a rare Kanye sighting, might we add), who are most recently responsible for reclaiming the city’s street cred.
Young, on the other hand, is something like a vet to Toronto’s nightlife after having worked in the industry since he was 17. Despite his full body tattoos and moody Instagram feed, he is far from your typical bartender stereotype: in addition to being compassionate and fiercely loyal to those who gave him his start, Young has also been sober for several years.
Benny Young let us into Apt 200 to answer our questions and show us his take on a classic Old Fashioned - “The Plain and Simple or Whatever You Guys Want.”:
2.5 oz Woodford bourbon
1 oz Canadian maple syrup
5 dashes angostura bitters
Hearty orange zest
Cute lemon zest
Garnish with a rasher of smoked and candied bacon
1. Your most Canadian guilty pleasure that you love to hate: Maple syrup..it's super stereotypical but I honestly use it on everything, rib glaze, salad dressings, toothpaste...
2. Current pump up song: My good friend and Toronto artist Hunter Siegel’s new song OTF, it just came out.
3. Best Hump Day cure: There's a cure for that??? If it's physical then my go-to is a turmeric juice from The Grow Op on Ossington. Mental is tougher, but hitting a meeting or cooking dinner for my friends usually works wonders.
Founded 5 years ago, Blind Barber has since blown up in the #menswear world as a steezy dude’s staple spot for good cuts—especially if you’re also interested in looking cool AF while you’re doing it. The East Village location, right across from Tompkins Square Park, houses its haircuts in the front window, framed by classic hand painted signage and a barber’s pole—in case you weren’t sure. In the back, this handsome bar is complete with equally handsome (and well-groomed) bartenders, leather seating and old school furnishings. A moody vibe fit for first dates, late nights and everything in between.
Orlando Franklin is a seasoned 5 year vet at Blind Barber. Despite being surrounded by barbers for over half a decade, Orlando has no desire to cut hair - “No one does both. There’s only been one guy who has - he was a bartender but then he and his wife had a kid. Now he’s a barber”. Makes sense.
Orlando sat down with us to answer some questions and make us his favourite drink for heading up a good summer night:
2 oz. dry gin
0.75 oz. citric acid
0.5 maraschino liqueur
Bar spoon Creme Yvette
Combine first three ingredients in shaker and shake with plenty of ice, double strain into a chilled coupe and float bar spoon of Creme Yvette.
Churchill Bar is a Dundas West staple for Toronto’s nightlife. Just far enough away to weed out major crowds touring the city for a night out, the bar is a mix of the city’s creative class and the suits from the financial district who want something grimier than King Street has to offer. Tables and benches for groups occupy the front of the bar, while Luther’s Chicken, the resident friendly chicken kitchen, occupies the back.
Carlos Fernandes - a vet to Toronto’s bar scene - runs Churchill Bar, so you won’t often find him making your drinks. We got lucky and our hunky & heavily-tattooed host whipped us up a special, The Mexican Italian .
Fill a Highball glass with ice
1oz Casamigos Blanco
1oz Capo Capo
Top off Steigl Radler
2 dashes of Angustura Bitters
Garnish with Orange Zest
Designed in the spirit of bodegas along the Californian coast, New York City’s Genuine Liquorette—the downstairs compatriot to the Superette restaurant on ground level—was literally designed to make you feel like you own the place. The bottles of liquor lining the walls are available for you to serve yourself and pay by the ounce, which is what the bar calls “Rough Justice”. The base of the two bar tables in the middle of the basement hangout are stacked with cases of Tecate, while behind the bar there is a self-serve fridge stocked with beer and wine. Yes, self-serve. On top of all of that, barman Eben Freeman also teaches mixology classes where, upon completion of the class, the graduates can head in behind the bar and mix drinks for their friends. We’re not kidding.
Having risen the ranks from bartender, Freeman sees Genuine Liquorette as something truly unique: a chance to revolutionize the bar experience into something more personal. Beyond the above opportunities to make yourself truly at home in the bar, the interior is cozy and considered, with custom branding inspired heavily by alcohol and tobacco ads of the 70s. Think: plenty of neon, bad hair and so-bad-its-good taglines, with a fitting shrine to Farah Fawcett in the basement bathroom.
Freeman made us two of the bar’s most famous drinks using the equally famous ‘Cha-Chunker’. The Cha-Chunker is device that looks like it belongs more in a torture chamber or a woodworking class than a bar. This evaluation is not far off because the Cha-Chunker, as Freeman tells us, is actually just a souped up arbor press with a pointed tip made for poking holes in mini cans of sprite, tomato juice, and a variety of other mini bevy’s. Sounds like every man-cave’s dream.
The Bloody Mary consists of a 50ml bottle of Skyy Vodka inserted upside down into a baby can of tomato juice, finessed with a secret dose of spices and accoutrements like an olive and a celery stick.
The Pina Colada is 50ml bottle of Malibu Coconut Rum inserted upside down into a can of pineapple juice, mixed with lime and a pineapple wedge for garnish.