Bourbon may seem like an “old man’s” drink, but not anymore. Bourbon is a big trend right now, but not many bars in Toronto are bourbon forward. This is good thing because for the usual bourbon drinker these places are special and more unique than your regular cocktail bar. Bars around the city, especially "southern-inspired" bars, have a bar full of bourbon or a wide selection of yummy bourbon cocktails. Most bourbon cocktails can be on the sweet side, perfect for someone who is new to the drink. Here's a list of some of the best places in the city to drink bourbon, in case you're interested in trying it out.
1. Grand Electric
Grand Electric has put Parkdale on the map! With their amazing tacos and Mexican flavours, Grand Electric has been a hot spot since they opened back in 2011. But besides their tacos, they offer us a wide range of bourbon cocktails to choose from. My personal favourites are the Spicy Bourbon Caesar and the Bourbonade. If you're into good vibes, hip hop and bourbon-infused cocktails, Grand Electric is the place to be. Also check out their sister restaurant Electric Mud BBQ for more bourbon cocktails.
If you're looking for one of the best Old-Fashioned's in the city, Spirithouse is the place to go. This bar and restaurant might as well be a second LCBO with the amount of spirits they carry. You may notice that the bar is filled with barrels. These barrels contain barrel-aged cocktails, cocktails are matured in a barrel for a few weeks and then served right from of it. These barrel-aged cocktails are also available to purchase in individual glass bottles. Spirithouse is also home to the Toronto Institute of Bartending. So if you're up for the challenge you can learn how these talented mixologists make their delicious drinks.
3. The County General/ County General Riverside
Inspired by their southern roots, both locations offer a large selection of bourbon and bourbon-infused cocktails for you to choose from. The County General is probably one of the better places to sip bourbon since they offer tasting flights. You can pick four different kinds of bourbon to sip on. There's no better place to have some good tasting fried chicken and a bit of bourbon on the side.
Photo cred - Weslodge
4. Weslodge Saloon
If you're looking to spend a little more on premium cocktails, then you have to try Weslodge. Inspired by the mid-west, their drink menu is pretty loaded with bourbon cocktails. And the cocktails at Weslodge are not simply mixed either, many of their cocktails have over six components added into it. If you're not sure what all their ingredients are, the cocktail menu explains in detail exactly how each cocktail will taste. You can purchase cocktails by the glass and some by the bottle! If you're in the King and Spadina area on a weekend, you have to try their Tobacco Manhattan. There's no doubt you'll not miss those iconic yellow doors.
5. AFT Kitchen & Bar
Hands down, AFT is one of my favourite places to eat brunch and sip on amazing hand-crafted bourbon cocktails. At first the bar may seem quite small, but their back patio and bar is the perfect setting for a few relaxed drinks with friends. AFT is more of a smokehouse joint, offering Texas BBQ meals. But their wide selection of bourbon and crafted cocktails is where it's at. One of my favourite drinks to have with brunch at AFT is their Knob Creek bourbon sweet tea. Think of a peach iced tea with a spike of smokey bourbon. And the bourbon doesn't stop there. AFT also incorporates bourbon into their cooking to really give it that smokey southern taste.
6. Boots & Bourbon Saloon
The name says it all, bring your boots and drink bourbon. Boots & Bourbon is an authentic country bar that gets jammed packed on the weekends. With live country music, line dancing, a mechanical bull, and a bar full of bourbon, you'll feel like you're somewhere in Nashville. Jim Beam or Red Stag shots of bourbon are the choice of drink here if you're looking to have a good time. But if you're into cocktails, The General Lee is a must. Similar to a caesar, The General Lee is mixed with Bulleit Bourbon and topped off with a pepperette. If you're a lover of country music, then grab a cowboy hat and head over to Boots & Bourbon! You won't be disappointed.
7. Drake One Fifty
In the heart of the financial district, Drake One Fifty is the perfect place for after-work or after-dinner cocktails. An offspring of The Drake Hotel, Drake One Fifty has a drink menu that will please anyone who reads it. Their cocktails range from "Sours & Other Sippers," "Straight Spirited Stirs," to "Dessert Cocktails." And each section features at least one bourbon cocktail you have to try. One of my favourites is the Brown Butter Maple Old Fashioned. I'm a sucker for a good old fashioned, but this one actually tastes like smokey buttery maple syrup, with a surprise at the end. Their menu also has an extensive list of 1 oz bourbon for you to choose from. You might feel overwhelmed at first if you're not sure what to try, my recommendation would be to go for the Basil Hayden or Maker's Mark 46.
8. Goods & Provisions
Goods & Provisions is the hidden gem of Leslieville. The pub has been around for three years and yet some still may not have heard about it. Luckily for me, an east-ender, I've noticed the pub before. With their dim lights and 19-th century feel inside, Goods & Provisions is the perfect place to cozy up and sip on some bourbon. Their menu features over 18 different kinds of bourbons for you to try, prices ranging from low to high. And with that many options, picky drinkers have the option of choosing which bourbon to put in their drink. Skip dessert and try their Old Fascist. Made with Bulleit Bourbon, Amaro Lucano, Amaro Nonino, black pepper, coriander, cardamon bitters and ginger syrup, it's a little twist on the classic Old Fashioned.
Photo cred - Renee Suen
9. Speakeasy 21
Located in the Scotiabank Plaza, this modern-1920's inspired cocktail lounge is a perfect place to take someone you're trying to impress. But you better learn a bit about your cocktails first because Speakeasy 21 has some good looking (and tasting) cocktails that will make anyone feel classy and important. Their cocktail menu ranges from martinis, shaken mason jar drinks, to drinks on the rocks, all of which are a minimum or 2.5 oz. These strong cocktails will definitely have you buzzed in a good way. I would try the Marquee, made with Maker's Mark, cranberry juice, raspberry liquor, lime juice and lemon juice, this cocktail sounds sweet and refreshing; a perfect patio drink.
If you're a die hard for hand-crafted, complex cocktails that will awaken all your senses, then you definitely been to Barchef. But if you haven't then you need to go there ASAP! With over 50 different kinds of bourbon to choose from, Barchef is probably one of the most stocked up bars in the city. You'll find some of the best bartenders in the city here. They take pride, time and passion into crafting their cocktails, making each drink feel like a whole new experience. The drinks at Barchef come at a price, so if you're looking to take a friend from out of town, a first date, or maybe even your mom then this is the spot. Think of it as a restaurant, but with innovative cocktails instead.