Bar and Bakery don't necessarily go hand-in-hand, but if anyone is going to make it work, it is the Soho Metropolitan. The space is divided per purpose and the modern bar has an elegant light fixture, modern furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow light in, even on the dreariest of days. Signature cocktails air on the sweet side, with ingredients like butterscotch ripple and malibu mango layering over the stronger bases. Beers and wines round out the boozy offerings, with a modest pricetag for a downtown location (around $10 per glass). The bar menu is elegant, with oysters and baby sliders stuffed with goat cheese available to help to space out the drinks. Senses closes early, so it is a good place to start a night out.
If your hotel bar is located smack dab in the centre of a vibrant city, you will be expected to bring your A-game. The Chelsea Hotel does just that when it comes to their attached TBar. Although unassuming at first glance with stern marble touches, it is a modern Canadian treat. 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.
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 well-mixed at the vintage wood-topped bar, while the beer list offers a solid selection of local bottles and taps. There's live music most nights, including indie rock and country. But the big draw, and the reason the Melody Bar has been written up as one of the best bars in the world, 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.
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 fancy enough to warrant playing dress-up. Sit perched on a bar stool and intersperse your drinks with some sharing plates, including a pile of nachos substantial enough to call 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. Business deals are still made over drinks and travellers still regale the bartender with their daily stories.
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 carpeting and 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 classic cocktails named after Canadian literary heroes like Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. Sip on a glass of wine from the extensive list, or sample from an impressive selection of whiskies from around the world. Casual meal options are available for lunch and dinner, like the standard expensive hotel club sandwich.
We couldn't neglect The Drake, one of our favourite Hotel Bars. 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 4 to 7, offering sleek cocktails such as the Brown Butter Maple Old Fashioned. Or visit on a Monday evening for even cheaper drinks. Grab a couple to get you through a night of dancing and schmoozing, even if you are just chatting to your plus one.
For more than four decades, The Rex has been Toronto's go-to for great blues and jazz music. The venue books around 18 shows every week, 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.
Perched on top of one of the city's most popular central hotels, this 18th-floor Park Hyatt bar has been a favourite with Canadian writers, actors and society types for decades. It also has been on Toronto's nightlife list since the 1940s being only the second bar in the city to receive a liquor license. Along with an incredible view of Toronto's high buildings and bright lights, the bar offers a selection of single malts, expensive martinis (around the $20 mark) and wine. Indoor and outdoor spaces allow patrons to enjoy the Roof Lounge in all weather. It's open daily from noon to 1 a.m., with lunch and light bites in the evening.
The newish Delta hotel in Toronto made a splash, defying the high expectations of locals. Their hotel bar, Char No. 5 continues the trend, tucked away so that it is 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 truffles, the ultimate highbrow pairing. Cheese, poutine and bison tartar continue the theme of elegance through the menu. Whisky cocktails range from the classics (Manhattan) to inventive new offerings (Toronto Sour). They are convinced that you will walk out loving whisky. Challenge accepted.
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 pecorino and bacon wrapped dates with asiago cheese. Cocktails are one-of-a-kind, with luxurious choices such as "Les Fruits d'Amour" with grand Marnier, sparkling wine and fig pearls topped with grapefruit infused champagne foam. DEQ, you had us at champagne foam.