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Simply: "Must try" places to drink

Any and all tastes welcome, what is your favourite place to grab some friends and have a drink in Toronto?

I don't have any yet, but I'd love to find a place with offbeat drinks and a chill atmosphere.

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  1. What area are you interested in?

    1. Hmm... what do you like to drink: beer, wine, cocktails, or all of the above? What kind of vibe is "chill" to you... hole-in-the-walls or upscale hotel bars? What price range are you looking at? Without that information it's a bit tough to give good recs. So here's an everything but the kitchen sink barrage:

      For beer, the standouts are the Beer Bistro near King and Yonge, Bar Volo on Yonge near Wellesley, C'est What at Front and Church, and Smokeless Joe on John St. near Adelaide.

      In terms of brew pubs, there is the Granite Brewery up at Eglinton and Mt. Pleasant, and the Mill. St. Brewpub in the Distillery District (but stick to the beer, not the food).

      I don't drink mixed cocktails often, but I've had great Mojitos at Fire on the East Side near Yonge & Wellesley. My wife and I also both have a weird affection for a delicious concoction called a Gator Bait at Southern Accent in Mirvish Village near Bloor and Bathurst. Kaiseki Sakura at Church and Wellesley has a selection of great unique sake-based cocktails. Sidecar on College West is known for their drinks, and they make some with very fresh ingredients such as ginger root.

      For many kinds of $12 martinis there is the Pravda Vodka Bar on Wellington near Church, if you enjoy being surrounded by well dressed young go-getters from the Financial District while you imbibe.

      And finally, there was some recent discussion of a rather expensive ($20-25 each!) bar called Bar Chef: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/621899

      I don't really drink wine, I'm sure others could recommend wine bars and whatnot.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Gary

        To be honest, i've always felt the martinis at Pravda are poorly made.

        Also note that there are also middle-aged suits after 5pm on weekdays (not just "young go-getters"). It is also a complete meat market on weekends, with a completely different crowd.

        My favourites are the Harbord Room, Rooftop Lounge, Canoe, Bymark (but sometimes its really dead on non-weekday evenings), Vertical (on the patio in the summer!!), barchef, Sidecar, beerbistro. Also Crush for wine.

        1. re: Gary

          Those recommendations are great - I was asking for everyone's personal favourite.

          I'm looking for a range of cocktails, for both girls and sweet-toothed guys. By chill, I mean a staff that isn't too uptight and a crowd of twenty-somethings. Price isn't particularly a problem, as long as the product is worth it. And preferably somwhere in the downtown core, although again, that isn't a big deal.

          I have heard good things about Pravda Vodka Bar, but I see that someone has coined it as a "meat market".

          1. re: callmeMT

            Yes that was me. Only on Friday and Saturday nights though.

            Just not my thing!

        2. Dora Keogh (Danforth) on a Sunday evening. Irish bar with music.
          House on Parliament (Cabbagetown) British style pub

          Nothing off-beat in either though.

          1. Offbeat drinks and atmosphere can be found at insomnia on bloor just east of bathurst.
            a great selection of beer/wine and a lovely vibe can also be had at Cafe Volo, off yonge just north of wellesley

              1. - Great cocktails at Sidecar (where they're making their own infusions), and Nyood. Also, I hear at the Black Hoof although I can't vouch firsthand.

                - The Roof at the Hyatt is a must try because of the spectacular view. Bartending is respectable, but not superfluous. Bring your fat wallet.

                - Love Torito for wine and tapas on the patio and Kensington has great offbeat-ish atmosphere

                - My favourite dive is the Monarch. Nothing special about the beer selection, but it's a cool place to hang out and with Caplansky's deli in-house snacking is fantastic (or they'll let you bring in pizza or subs from the other shops on the street which is a pretty great deal)

                -

                5 Replies
                1. re: Rabbit

                  Sweaty Betty's and Communist's Daughter are fun places. The Rhino patio is good for some street theatre, just don't order any food. Crooked Star has a good friendly vibe as well. Some people might find Dakota Tavern offbeat. I also like Not my Dog in Parkdale and the Roxton. Not fancy places though.

                  1. re: jamesm

                    I like Betty's, the Dakota and the Roxton for beer, though the best selection is at Ciro's.

                    I second Sidecar for cocktails, though I've had some good ones at Julie's Cuban, too.

                    1. re: piccola

                      Sidecar has great drinks - their raspberry mojito is thirst quenching and not too sweet and their Old Fashioned is poured over one big ice cube. Fun!

                    2. re: jamesm

                      a couple of notes, the rhino patio is notorious for long periods of no service, be prepared to wait and not my dog is really tiny....but both have their charm!

                      1. re: robgm

                        Yeah, true about the service at the Rhino. When they take your first order it's best to order two of whatever you're having. Not my Dog is tiny but has a cozy little patio out back. I should also point out that the places I recommended aren't exactly places meant for sippin' drinks.

                  2. Communist's Daughter at Dundas and Ossington - it's great.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                      Awesome jukebox at Communists Daughter. Not a big place though so if you go with more than 4 or 5 people it's really hard to get a spot.

                    2. Lot 16 just beside The Drake is my 'go to' place for a chill bar. They always have some fun drinks, from a 'dirty' Shirley Temple to a wonderfully intricate gin caesar with 5 different garnishes. But it's really the ultra-friendly and laidback staff but who still give great service. I always feel comfortable there and I'm not the kind of person that always chats up the bar. Not too expensive too.

                      I'm going to try to hang around the Black Hoof more too. Much has been made of it's food but they have some great cocktails made with all fresh ingredients, muddled liquors, and innovative mixed (using tea, herbs, etc.) The bar area is very long and it's still very active during the week. And they pretty much have the best bar food in the city I'd imagine.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: artificialard

                        I had an amazing Manhattan at the Black Hoof a couple months ago. Actually, it was so good, I had a few! I think they might mix up the drink menu and I haven't been there since, so I can't say for certain if it's still on the cocktail menu.

                        1. re: maritimah

                          Thanks for the suggestion, Manhattan's are a favorite of mine so I'll definitely go back for that. Just last week I went and the Manhattan's were on the menu but I had a 'Summer Time' which was a rum concoction with fresh fruit juice and other great things. They really care about making a balanced cocktail with interesting and complex flavors there.

                      2. Watusi on Ossington south of Dundas has an extensive drink menu and a cool early 70s lounge vibe. We had some excellent martinis and outstanding, offbeat tapas there last weekend. The pseduo hipster crowd was tolerable despite the high the fedora count. The overall vibe was still relaxed and service was excellent.

                        http://www.watusi.biz/

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: abigllama

                          Seconding the mentions of SideCar for fun, innovative cocktails and a hip, relaxed atmosphere; Smokeless Joes for an extensive beer list and cozy ambiance; and Crush for wine, especially with food pairings.