Toronto’s cocktail scene is vibrant, inventive and constantly growing. While many classic cocktails got their start in metropolises such as New York City and London, England, Toronto is also the birthplace of many unique and delicious drinks. They may not be internationally recognized yet, but they are here for Torontonians to enjoy.
The Toronto – the cocktail and not the city – is relatively unknown. This drink is very popular with cocktail bartenders and aficionados in the city, yet it is not on many menus. Surprising, as the name inspires local pride and its origins go back 100 years. So, what exactly is it? The Toronto is a stirred cocktail, served in a Nick and Nora glass. It contains Canadian rye whiskey, Fernet-Branca, simple syrup and angostura bitters. It’s an old-fashioned rendition, with more bitter aniseed flavors thanks to the addition of Fernet. This drink is not for the faint of heart, as is the city itself.
The city on fire
The City on Fire is a book, possibly a metaphor, and a very popular cocktail at Famous Last Words in the Junction. If the name seems unusual for a drink, it’s because Famous Last Words is a literary-themed cocktail bar. The bar top is made from over 11,000 Scrabble tiles, and every cocktail on the menu is named after a book. Stirred with ice, served on a large cube and expressed with an orange peel, The City on Fire is a real crowd pleaser. It contains a blend of two whiskeys, mezcal, Cointreau, simple syrup and angostura bitters. This drink packs a powerful punch; it’s drunk and smoky, and the perfect choice to warm you up from the inside out. If this drink sounds a little too strong for your taste, you’re in luck. The book-style menu offers more than a dozen other custom cocktails that can be enjoyed here in Toronto, by the cozy fireplace and overstuffed bookshelves of Famous Last Words.
Bar Chef is another cocktail bar in Toronto that promises a unique and delicious experience. As stated on their website, their goal is to “challenge the conventional notions and boundaries of the cocktail experience.” Their Modernist Series features cocktails prepared in the kitchen by chefs. One of their bestsellers is the Sailor’s Mojito, which features spiced rum, fresh lime, muddled mint, lime and vanilla scent, cryo mojito pears, coconut gels, and something they call beach essence. The whole concept of Bar Chef is insanely creative and unique. They have a menu full of cocktails that can only be found in Toronto, and can only be found at Bar Chef.
Civil Liberties has a myriad of cocktails that you can only get in Toronto, but there’s a catch: they don’t “really exist”. You see, Civil Liberties has no menu. Instead, the cocktails they serve live in the minds of their talented mixologists. The concept here is very fun and whimsical. Instead of reading through a list of cocktails and analyzing the ingredients and descriptions, rely on your bartender. You can tell them what you like – sweet, savory, citrusy, bitter, boozy – but in the end they get to choose your libations for the night.