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.
Recommended for Hotel Bars because: More than four decades can't be wrong about great blues and jazz.
Courtney's expert tip: There is a cover charge for roughly 5 of the 18 shows a week. If you come to one of the other 13, make sure to contribute to the tip jar. Respect the art.
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.
Recommended for Hotel Bars because: With classic ambiance and a well-curated wine list, The Consort Bar feels like an elegant retreat from the city's hustle.
Courtney's expert tip: Get to know the well versed bartender Stefano. He has been there awhile and could supply you with great stories as well as superb drink recommendations. We may be placing this bar on the list due to him alone.
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.
Recommended for Hotel Bars because: Bacon and egg in a glass with vodka and clamato juice might not sound appetizing right off the bat. But you judged poutine at first.
Courtney's expert tip: If you come here and don't try a Caesar, we don't know if we can forgive you. You can say no to bacon infused vodka? Who are you?
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.
Recommended for Hotel Bars because: This gorgeous sophisticated bar with creatively concocted cocktails warrants you getting all dressed up.
Courtney's expert tip: Happy Hour is every day from 5-7 for half priced cocktails.
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.
Recommended for Hotel Bars because: A bar that is bold enough to host as diverse activities as lectures and burlesque shows.
Courtney's expert tip: This inclusive space includes Gender Neutral washrooms.
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.
Recommended for Hotel Bars because: Dark wood, dark beer and literary sophistication alongside your cocktails. The Library Bar is one of a kind.
Courtney's expert tip: Don't miss afternoon tea served in the Library Bar on Saturdays and Sundays. Seatings are at 12:00pm, 12:30pm and 2:30pm.
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.
Recommended for Hotel Bars because: This cultural magnet is a great place to have drinks with a congregation of hipsters.
Courtney's expert tip: Catch the Apres-Work menu between 3-6pm on weekdays. 2-ounce cocktails are around $5 off, and there is a good amount of sushi and sashimi to nosh on.
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.
Recommended for Hotel Bars because: Wine bars and pubs in Toronto are a dime a dozen. It is time to get serious about the cocktail.
Courtney's expert tip: The original plan was for the lobby to include a Starbucks. We think this was a fine choice. We could all do with a little less coffee (and a little more whisky).
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 complimentary marinated olives and Maple Cajun toasted nuts while you imbibe, or indulge in a lovely light menu that includes gems like the astoundingly good fried chickpea fritters with carrot harissa, yogurt and cilantro. 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.
Recommended for Hotel Bars because: From high tea to high rolling, DEQ does it right. It also has one of the best patios in the city.
Courtney's expert tip: Located across the street from Roy Thomson Hall, DEQ is ideally located for those enjoying a Toronto Symphony Orchestra performance.
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.
Recommended for Hotel Bars because: If you like to imagine that you have royal subjects, Louis Louix is the throne to sit on. We mean, hotel bar.
Courtney's expert tip: Brunch is amazing at Louix Louis. There is avocado toast on the menu, but it has guacamole AND grilled avocado.