These 10 Hotel Bars in Toronto Smash the Dull Stereotypes

In a city full of amazing restaurants and bars, spending precious moonlight hours inside a hotel may not seem like the best use of one's time. But Toronto has undergone a hotel boom in recent years, with international luxury brands such as the Shangri-La, St. Regis and Ritz Carlton erecting in the city. To stand out from the pack, hotels needed to up their game.

Up they did: hotels now have incredible in-house bars and lounges that not only draw tourists to Toronto, but also locals looking for an upscale jaunt to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail. The Delta Toronto impresses the after work crowd with Char No. 5, a whiskey bar that allows people to enact their favourite scenes from Mad Men, minus the smoking. Those who want to experience a hotel bar that has stood the test of time should visit the Library Bar at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, which has been serving nightcaps and casual meals since 1929. End your evening by enjoying a Manhattan in the wood-panelled Edwardian room and be whisked away to another era.

Want something a little younger and more lively? Karaoke nights at the Gladstone Hotel's Melody Bar are legendary in Toronto, drawing an eclectic mix of hipsters and hippies who have lived in the west end neighbourhood for decades.

These bars might station tourists closer to their hotel. We do recommend getting out of the bubble from time to time, but until then, drink up.


Rex Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar
Photo courtesy of The Rex Bar And Hotel

A family business since the 1950s, The Rex has been Toronto's go-to for great blues and jazz music. The venue books around 80 shows a month, with two or three different acts performing each weekday evening, and several weekend shows that start around noon and go through the night. The roster is mostly comprised of local artists, but does include international acts and a smattering of other genres. The vibe here is super casual, with the focus truly on the music. The food is fresh, but standard pub food, with numerous vegetarian options. Perhaps most importantly, there's a good selection of draught beer to enjoy with the smooth, smooth jazz.

Consort Bar
Photo courtesy of The Omni King Edward

Situated in the King Edward Hotel, the Consort Bar is reminiscent of a gentlemen's club. Luckily, ladies are now invited into the old world charm, with cocktails (like the Queen Cosmopolitan) fancy enough to warrant playing dress-up. Sit perched on a bar stool and intersperse your local IPA or glass of wine with sharing plates, including a Falafel platter substantial enough to call it a dinner. The King Eddy has a formidable history. A 1961 menu priced the martinis at a mere 90 cents! Although the prices have inflated, the clientele has remained classy. Try a John and Yoko martini, so named because the former couple stayed at this hotel at the height of Beatlemania.

TBar Lounge
Photo courtesy of Chelsea Hotel, Toronto

If your hotel bar is located smack dab in the centre of a vibrant city, you are expected to bring your A-game. The Chelsea Hotel does just that when it comes to their attached TBar. The simple decor includes austere marble touches and soft lighting. There are a wide variety of drinks on offer, but the Chelsea staff are particularly proud of its Caesars, which are loaded with toppings and come with inventive rims, such as a pillow of crushed cashews. With housemade clamato juice, you might be able to count this as part of your 5-a-day fruit and vegetable program. If you need a little more fuel, come downstairs between 11:30am and 2pm to feast on housemade Indian curry dishes, or better yet wake up in the morning for a Toronto brunch treat.

Mister C.
Photo courtesy of Siren Communications

When you go to the standard hotel bar, usually it is a pit stop before you get to the real action. The Bisha Hotel's Mister C. is so ideally located, and so beautifully ambient, that it may be where you park your caboose for the foreseeable future. Expertly crafted cocktails include a Manhattan with tobacco infused makers mark and a Polish Peach with Belvedere, Briottet Peche de Vigne, Lemon, Egg White and Prosecco. Clients dress to impress, even on unexpected weekday evenings. Appetizers include dry aged beef sliders and avocado tempura. There are DJs several nights a week if you are in the mood to stay out late.

Queen West
The Melody Bar
Photo courtesy of The Gladstone Hotel

Housed in the Gladstone Hotel, which has operated in Toronto's west end for more than 100 years, the Melody Bar has a style all its own. When the owners removed the carpeting, it revealed vintage terazzo floors, and the mid-century feel continues with accents like leather banquette seating and wood-panelled walls. Even the bathrooms are a treat, designed as if they were from the 1930s. Cocktails are local and creative, such as the Salon with whisky, maple syrup, grapefruit and egg white. The beer list offers a solid selection of local bottles and taps. Enjoy your beverage by the vintage wood-topped bar. There's live music most nights, including indie rock and country. But the big draw is its weekend karaoke nights, which are great fun even if you think you hate karaoke. It also has CD launches, burlesque shows and a Sunday bluegrass brunch.

Library Bar
Photo courtesy of The Royal York

Once upon a time, there was a golden age of railway travel, fine crafted cocktails and well-worn library books. With the revival of Union Station, perhaps we can return to 1929 glory, the year that The Fairmont Royal York Hotel opened across from Toronto's main train station. With high-backed plush armchairs, wood-panelled walls and patterned drapery reminiscent of Edwardian England, a visit to the hotel's Library Bar - located just off the opulent lobby - feels like stepping back in time. Guests can treat themselves to cocktails such as the Rooftop Lavender and Honey Bees Knees, with gin, a dash of ginger and ginseng bitters, lemon and honey that was harvested right on the rooftop. Sip on a glass of wine from the extensive list, or sample from an impressive selection of whiskies from around the world. Seasonal, local options are available for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night.

We couldn't neglect The Drake, one of the best places to see and be seen in Toronto. The Drake is not located in Toronto's city centre, but it sure feels like it is when you arrive. A hub for the fabulous, this revamped space manages to be edgy yet elegant. It offers everything from brunch to late night entertainment with world class musicians, guest DJs and even poetry slams. The sky yard rooftop is always packed to the brim, regardless of the time of year. There is an Apres Work menu from 3 to 6, offering pours of wine or beer for $5 or sleek cocktails such as the Old Fashioned for just $10. It is a great place to go if you can sneak away from work early and remember what summer is truly about.

Char No 5
Photo courtesy of Marriott

The Delta hotel's bar, Char No. 5, is tucked away to be free from the florescent lights of stereotypical hotel lobby. Dark and musky, the bar seems to wrap itself in the qualities of its attributed drink: whisky. If your experience with whisky has been ho-hum, this is the place to shake things up (or at least place them on the rocks). The diversity of flavour in this grain mash is amazing and you can sip on a grassy or austere blend while nibbling on whisky maple jerky as a fine, albeit chewy, pairing. Charcuterie and cheese and smokey corn dogs allow you to be as high or lowbrow as you like. Whisky cocktails range from the classics (Manhattan) to inventive new offerings (Toronto, with bitters, rye, char no. 5, brown sugar, Fernet branca and orange zest). They are convinced that you will walk out loving whisky. Challenge accepted.

DEQ Terrace and Lounge
Photo courtesy of The Ritz Carlton

Wear something fancy and indulge in an equally fancy cocktail at the Ritz Carlton's elegant DEQ Terrace and Lounge. During the winter, cozy fireplaces and furnishings inspire patrons to hunker down. During the summer, the fireplace will follow you outside to the expansive patio which overlooks the CN Tower and downtown Toronto. Enjoy complementary kettle chips while you imbibe, or indulge in a lovely light menu that includes gems like truffle frites with black garlic aioli and tuna tartar served with taro chips. Cocktails are one-of-a-kind, with luxurious choices such as a mango margarita or the 61X with Louis XIII cognac. The latter at a 2.75 ounce pour will set you back $600, but there are certainly more affordable choices.

Louix Louis
Photo courtesy of St. Regis

Leave it to the St. Regis to BRING IT. Louix Louis is situated on the 31st floor and it is impressively elegant, stunning cocktail-swiggers with its French and American influences. It is a place so tasteful that you will be checking if you have any spinach in your teeth before you sit down. The bar is 30-feet long and the ceiling is a mural by artist Madison van Rijn that conjures the bottom of a glass of whisky. A 30-foot bar obviously has the capacity to be well stocked and memorable cocktails include the New York Sour and Bloody Mary. Mocktails are also creatively poured. You can enjoy your libations alongside the alluring atmosphere or have some caviar, charred baby leeks or a whole truffle chicken to stay just a little longer.


Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney