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Best cocktails and martinis in GTA

Since I'm alcohol-free for Lent, I am dreaming of a great cocktail after April 12th...preferably in the south/west end of the GTA (i.e. Etobicoke/Roncy/Queen West) or downtown/midtown/Leslieville.

Where is the best bartender (with the best tastebuds) in town? The kind of place that prides itself on crafting a delicious well-balanced cocktail or martini with fresh ingredients, interesting garnish, freshly-squeezed juices, unique ingredients, house-infused spirits, etc. Doesn't have to be "fancy" but simply mixing sour apple liqueur with vodka isn't what I'm talking about.

If you know their "special" night (e.g. Martini Mondays, half-price Tuesdays, happy hours) let me know!

Please don't bother suggesting places in Markham/North York/Scarborough; they are simply too far out of my way (though I suppose it could help others).

My current fave is Jam Martini Bar in Port Credit. Those bartenders know their stuff and $5 Martini Mondays are delightful.

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  1. This is not the cheapest place to drink but The Paddock at Queen and Bathurst has fabulous cocktails. Their amaretto sour is amazing, and made with fresh juice. They always have a theme alcohol for the month and have various drinks. Ask for the menu and try something new.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Shorttyred

      I can't believe that here in toronto we have to say that there is fresh juice in a cocktail. that should be a given.

      1. re: Horace Mayweather

        The juice industry is pretty ridiculous. Vast majority of juice you find at stores/supermarkets is water with sugar, juice from concentrate with a slew of other chemicals/additaves, even Tropicana OJ which is supposed to be 100% fresh squeezed juice injects "natural flavour" into their juices to up the "fresh" taste.

        Another brand that's sold at Whole Foods and finds itself in the "healthy/organic" section at Metro, I forget its name Dewer? Dewar? something like that, it comes in a dark green carton with a variety of flavours. Pick up one that says "Peach" and its 73% grape/apple juice - almost 3/4 something other than what its labeled as.

        I don't buy juice anymore - I freshly squeeze whatever I want but this is a very expensive habit.

        I think Black River is pretty good as far as pure juice goes.

        1. re: radiopolitic

          Richard at Chasers Juice in Mimico supplies fresh juice to many of the top restaurants in the GTA. It's also worth a visit if you're in the neighbourhood!

          1. re: Food Tourist

            Thanks for the tip, their website doesn't seem to mention anything about sales to just regular individuals, do they do this?
            Also, it mentions that they only use organic vegetables but I don't see anything on whether the fruit is/isn't organic, any idea on that?

            1. re: radiopolitic

              He doesn't really use organic produce, though sometimes he does. I think it depends on the price he finds when sourcing. Yes, his retail shop is open to the general public and I often go there to buy smoothies or 2L juice/herb conconctions. He also carries some "live" healthy food in small quantities.

              1. re: Food Tourist

                Awesome, thank you. I'll be sure to check it out.

            2. re: Food Tourist

              I found that his Pink Grapefruit juice was a little too pink to be natural. I juice my own all the time and it is never that bright.. I am not saying that he adds some colour but....

            3. re: radiopolitic

              OH Yeah! The Black River Blueberry juice is simply awesome!

          1. re: CarNut

            How much do the drinks cost at Sidecar? (average)

          2. Second Sidecar. Also, Jen at the Black Hoof is doing some really interesting cocktails.... Both are worth a try, and within walking distance of each other. Perhaps a little bar-hopping is in order?!

            3 Replies
            1. re: redearth

              I definitely second the Black Hoof. I've had some killer cocktails there over the past couple of months. The figgy bourbon sour was excellent, as was the other one I had but I cannot recall the name ;-)

              1. re: acd123

                Oh yeah, it was a manhattan. Only problem was, it came in a martini glass and I hate martini glasses. Maybe that's traditional but I would have preferred a rocks glass.

                1. re: acd123

                  I've had great drinks at both Sidecar and Blackhoof. A really interesting take on gin and tonic at Sidecar with lavender infused gin I believe, a more refreshing citrus gin drink at Black hoof and another gin/wine apple drink at Black Hoof.

            2. Jam in Port Credit is great. Food is awful, but the cocktails are great.

              1. Second the Paddock and Sidecar... also, Russ at Nyood really knows his stuff.

                I've really got to get to Black Hoof!!

                3 Replies
                1. re: Rabbit

                  Where do you think it would be best to have a 25th birthday at (for about 15-20 people)? Paddock, Sidecar, or Black Hoof?

                  1. re: canadianbeaver

                    Not the Black Hoof, unless you rent the place out. I think it is way too small for a party of that size. Paddock may be able to do it.

                    1. re: canadianbeaver

                      Laide... amazing martinis and not crazy prices...

                  2. Is the Park Hyatt Rooftop Lounge in this category for amazing fresh cocktails and martinis?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Food Tourist

                      Hyatt is OK... depends what you order. I think the Four Seasons does it a bit better... and the Library Bar at the Royal York can turn out some nice drinks too (they make a good Old Fashioned).

                      1. re: Rabbit

                        A bunch of us are going out for drinks for my birthday this weekend in the Yorkville area...do you think we should hit the Park Hyatt or the Four Seasons? There will be about 10 people and mostly 30-something.

                        What should we stick to ordering at the Park Hyatt?

                        P.S. In case you are wondering, my birthday doesn't count for Lenten sacrifice (can't fast on a feast day!)

                        1. re: Food Tourist

                          14 of us showed up at the Roof Lounge. Drinks were just okay - tried the berry berry cocktail, the mojito and a classic gin martini. They were out of certain ingredients such as the chocolate swizzle stick promised in a chocolate martini. My friend's mojito was missing the sugar. A couple sucking face for hours on one of the sofas certainly took the "romantic atmosphere" to a whole new level for us. Service was pretty mediocre overall. I'll try Four Seasons next time we want a Yorkville experience.

                      2. re: Food Tourist

                        i agree - very yummy. but not really a bar. more a very casual restaurant. sorry - this was meant to respnd to the rice bar in kensington post...

                      3. for a treat, go to barchef at queen and augusta...they don't mess around. not cheap, but DELICIOUS cocktails. menu's divided into sweet, sour, savoury and molecular....
                        the sake sour is amazing. so's the mohito.
                        its definitely what you'd consider fancy tho....
                        drinks go from $12-45 per.
                        and yes, the 45-er is amazing.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: alisonb

                          This place looks fantastic and I've probably walked by it tons of times without noticing it, damn.

                          I am definitely hitting this up, thanks.

                          1. re: radiopolitic

                            Went to BarChef for my 25th birthday this past weekend. We were told they don't take reservations, but for my group of 12, if we arrived before 7 p.m. they could seat us. We got there at 6:30 and it was empty (it was pouring rain so that could factor into it). They really only have one table that fits more than 4 people, everything else is a booth. The interior is gorgeous, very sleak and clean. We sat at the Chef's Table. The service was excellent, the waiter would answer any questions anyone had and let us try things before we ordered. Everyone had mixed reviews for the drinks. Some were hits, other misses. I think that's because the ingredients are all homemade and so it can taste a bit different than expected. The drinks were all doubles or triples, and you could definitely taste the alcohol, they were extremely strong drinks. Extremely! We only ordered drinks (went out to eat afterwards) but they brought us free ceviche for the table anyway, which was a nice touch. Overall, had a really nice time. Would recommend it for a date or a double date, but not for a large party.

                          2. re: alisonb

                            the best cocktails in toronto by far i have had many of there cocktails including there cesear which was like a meal everything pickled in house it was fantastic it would do so much better in new york were the cocktail scene is reconized

                          3. I've heard the concoctions at Rice Bar in Kensington are pretty rad. He does number of creative infusions with shochu, for example.


                            1. I don't get the manhattan in a martini glass either. We had some manhattans at The Adelaide St. Pub on Saturday (very good - very boozy) but not one in a rocks glass.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Malcolm

                                Hey Malcolm... Can you say anything more about Adelaide Street pub (food, atmosphere, etc.)... it's really close to me (in a geographic sort of way) and I'm curious. Thanks - R!

                                1. re: Rabbit

                                  To be honest I've only eaten there once and it was fries(!) Still, they were pretty good. Overall, I've really been impressed with the place. I find the staff to be super-friendly, and there's good choices for beer, wine and liquor. Cool decor in a loungey\pub kinda way, and so far the clientele are friendly and unpretentious. They'll be opening an upstairs patio in the summer which will rock, I'm sure. Check it out!

                                  1. re: Malcolm

                                    Sounds like it might be an OK neighbourhood hangout... thanks - Rab-bit!

                              2. Bar Chef is a great place to go for a martini - located on Queen Street West. The star of the show is definitely the martinis! The martini menu is divided into four sections: sweet, sour, savory and molecular. Standouts included the Barchef Rocket, the Lavender Cosmo and the Dirty Bar Chef. The staff are very knowledgeable and give a great explanation of the concept of the bar and descriptions of the martinis.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cynalan

                                  Barchef is easily, hands-down the winner. no question. orbits above everywhere else.
                                  They have a new page to the menu now called 'Recession' which has drinks priced at $9.
                                  My favourites are the sake sour, VanGogh's Downfall, the mohito. The mohito tastes more what lime smells like, is on the molecular page, and comes with lime 'air'. There's a great counterbalance to how unearthly the drinks are, and how real the staff are. Love it there, and have been enjoying the secret locale. :-)

                                2. We like "On the Rocks" on Bloor near Royal York, nice atmosphere.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. I love the cocktails at Note Bene... they used a torch to sear the lemons and lime for a caramalized flavour!