Whiskey, with roots as early as the 13th century, has become a significant part of the cocktail culture, and with the rise in popularity of distilled spirits, bottlers are now using different grains, barrels and filtration techniques, increasing competition in a competitive market. Whether you’re a cocktail connoisseur on the hunt for a solid whiskey, or just a fan of the single malt, there’s no short of whiskey bars and cafes right here in Toronto – read on to discover the 13 best places to get your whiskey on.
CC Lounge & Whiskey Bar
Bar, Canadian, Pub Grub, $$$
If you’re a straight shooter who prefers their whiskey neat, CC Lounge is the spot in Toronto to feed that appetite. From Canadian and American bourbons and whiskeys to Irish whiskeys and scotch, there’s plenty to choose from like Woodford Reserve, Basil Hayden’s, Oban and Blanton’s. With over 300 labels to choose from, making a choice can be quite difficult – opt for a whiskey flight instead, and experience the tastes of four different distillers.
At The Emmet Ray, the whiskey list is long. From Canadian, American, ryes and bourbon to international, Irish and single-malt or blended scotches, there’s plenty to choose from. If you’re feeling fancy, go for a ‘top shelf’ spirit – or, keep it simple and opt for the originals like Collingwood, Buffalo Trace or Knob Creek.
The Caledonian is Toronto’s answer to the best scotch in the city – the menu here is almost 18 pages long, boasting a long list of scotch whiskeys divided by regions in Scotland; Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands, Campbeltown, Islands and Islay. All of the scotches here are aged no less than three years in oak barrels, and the length of aging is listed next to each scotch along with a description of the nose, palate and finish, making it that much easier for guests to decide what they’re in the mood for. There’s also a number of blends and malts from other countries and scotch flights that are bound to have any scotch lover leave singing.
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Coffee Shop, Tea , $$$
Boxcar Social, serving Riverside and Summerhill, is a trendy spot that features coffee from some of the best roasters in North America along with a tasteful selection of wines, craft beers, bourbons, ryes and scotches. Bourbon and scotch selections are always rotating, most of which are small batch brands that only deliver in limited quantities (making it that much more desirable for the guests). Choose from names like Baker’s, 1792, Ardbeg and Stalk & Barrel. If you’re into pairing a bite with your spirit, don’t forget to order a charcuterie board.
Bar Hop Brew Co. has an expansive patio | Courtesy of Bar Hop Brew Co.
Bar Hop may be known as the go-to spot for craft beer – but, they’ve got an impressive list of whiskeys as well. Choose from Canadian, American, Irish, bourbon, single malts and blended scotches; think Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve, Lagavulin 16-year, Sazerac Rye 18-year and Blanton’s. Plus, what better way to have a bourbon than with a side of local craft beer?
1602 may be difficult to find, but this hidden gem is well worth the search. The vibe is cozy and the atmosphere casual – feel free to enjoy your spirit with ease. There are over 300 whiskeys and bourbons to choose from, so ‘ask and you shall receive.’ What could be easier than that?
Although Toronto Temperance Society may be ‘members only,’ it’s a big contender in Toronto’s world of whiskey. Located above Sidecar, this spot is a classy establishment meant for only those world-class cocktail enthusiasts. The list of whiskeys is extensive; from single malt scotches (divided regionally) and blended scotches to bourbons and American, Canadian and Irish whiskeys, it’s no wonder this spot is a sought-out place for drinks. Note – go get yourself a friend who is a member (members can bring outside guests), or apply to be a member yourself – it’s well worth it, we promise.
Allen’s Restaurant may be known to many Danforth locals as a spot for grub, but this joint also hosts a long list of whiskeys from blended and single malt scotches to Canadian, American and Irish whiskeys. If you’re a lover of single malts, this is your jam – find anything from Tormore 1984 (15-year) and Linkwood 1975 (21-year) to Balvenie (21-year) Portwood.
SpiritHouse is just that – a little house tucked down Portland Street in the heart of downtown, offering one of the largest and most diverse spirits list in all of Toronto. There are bourbons and American whiskeys like Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select, Canadian and Irish whiskeys like Forty Creek Barrel Select and Bushmills as well as single malt and blended scotches. The list changes often, so guests never get bored and can always experience something new.
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Char No.5 Canadian Whisky Bar
Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
If you’re on the prowl for a good ol’ local whiskey, Char No. 5 is your spot, carrying the best names in the Canadian whiskey business like Stalk & Barrel, Crown Royal and Forty Creek. Here, you’ll find only the finest Canada has to offer as well as rare and local finds. Guests can choose between a single or double or from a series of four different flights for those who want to up their game. If neat isn’t what you’re looking for, Char No. 5 has a list of innovative cocktails featuring Canadian whiskey – the Sazerac, meant for rye lovers, features Lot No. 40 rye, Herbsaint, Peychaud’s Bitters, house-made simple syrup and lemon zest. For the faint of heart, the Cream of the Crop is the perfect blend of Pike Creek, Cointreau, cranberry, pineapple and a house-infused black cherry, shaken with egg white for a frothy finish.
Lovers of scotch, look no further – The Feathers Pub is your match made in heaven. This place is rumored to have one of the best single malt selections in North America, with over 400 malts from over 100 different distilleries. There are a number of independent bottlers and distillers as well as closed, or ‘silent’, stills (the rarest of single malts). Choose from a particular region like Speyside or The Lowlands, or if you’re unsure where to start, opt for a whiskey flight. There’s even the option to indulge in a whiskey tour; a ‘self-guided’ menu that introduces guests to single malts from Scotland, allowing guests to experience Scotland’s different regions.
Goods and Provisions is a rustic restaurant and cocktail bar in Leslieville known for its innovative cocktail list and sweet whiskey selection. While the list is short, the selection boasts only the best in bourbon and rye like Basil Hayden’s, Royal Canadian, Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s and Bulleit. If you’re into something mixed, Goods and Provisions crafts a handful of brilliantly done cocktails. Go for the ‘old fascist’ with Bulleit bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Amaro Lucano, ginger syrup, cardamom bitters and a black pepper, coriander and bay leaf tincture.
Bar, Coffee Shop, Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub, Tea , $$$
Voodoo Child is an eclectic cafe serving up coffee, baked goods, cocktails and Sunday brunch. This little spot is the perfect hidden gem, nestled between Little Italy and Baldwin Village, if you’re a fan of whiskey cocktails. All cocktails feature Jim Beam – although, other bourbons are available.