Toronto’s best whiskey joints are like candy shops for adults. Variably concentrated on rare and far off spirits, ranging from comprehensive caches to regionally devoted purists. Some are world-renowned, while others are more casual spots to get to know the drink, but they’re all defined by a respect for exceptional, sophisticated spirits. These are the best whiskey joints in Toronto.
THE CALEDONIAN | 856 College St.
The best if not the only authentic Scottish pub in the city, The Caledonian in Little Italy is an area favourite and a cultural beacon for traveling Scotsman – according to BlogTO, Belle and Sebastian even stops in when passing through Toronto. A menu boasts traditional tavern grub like haggis and Scotch eggs, but the whiskey list is the real highlight, featuring more than 300* malts and blends, divided by Scottish region of origin. They host frequent tasting events, including regular nights just for women.
THE EMMET RAY | 924 College St.
Named after the mythical jazz guitarist anti-hero at the centre of Woody Allen’s 1999 vehicle Sweet and Lowdown, College Street’s Emmet Ray delights in the drink and unreasonable music making. Their bar now lists more than 240 whiskey labels from around the world, and over 75 scotches are represented among them. Head down to delight in a brand or two over some lively jazz, or stay tuned for one of their more focused tasting nights.
THE LIBRARY BAR | 100 Front St. W
Located in the halls of historic luxury hotel the Fairmont Royal York, the Library Bar is a whiskey bar with international reservations. Making good on their name with a brief but well-curated list of whiskies that emphasizes single malts, they offer brands as far-flung as Sweden, India, and France, and if you’re especially charmed, you can even purchase a bottle and keep it behind the bar for future visits.
FOLLY BREWPUB | 928 College St.
Formerly Habits Gastropub, Michelle Genttner and Luis Martins have rebranded their space at College and Dovercourt with an emphasis on the new, Belgian-inspired house brews, but it still keeps the same impressive back bar. It houses more than 400 bottles of whiskey, amongst which America, Canada, Ireland, and Scotland are strongly represented alongside selections from France, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, and Wales.
CC LOUNGE & WHISKEY BAR | 45 Front St. E
If the name doesn’t give it away, CC Lounge emphasizes Canadian whiskies over Scottish and American bourbons. Stocking more than 300 different whiskies (more than 80 of them from the Great White North) in their bottle-lined whiskey tunnel, you can give them a tour with a tasting flight, or on a guided walkthrough.
ALLEN’S | 143 Danforth Ave.
Opened in 1987, the bar and dining room at Danforth institution Allen’s are the stuff of local legends. According to their website, their bar features exactly 340 whiskies, at least 285 of them single malts. And their infamous house burgers, made from naturally raised, organic meats from area farmers (and the “breed, feed and age of every animal” served is included on the menu) aren’t to be missed, either.
SPIRITHOUSE | 487 Adelaide St. W
Touting an affiliation with the Toronto Institute of Bartending, West Adelaide’s SpiritHouse is an upscale cocktail lounge and bistro dressed to the nines with service and composure to match. The luxurious wrap around bar holds a dream-stock of high-grade whiskies, wisely approached with a sampling flight and the nearest bartender’s tasting notes.
CHAR NO. 5 | 75 Lower Simcoe St.
Tucked into the Delta Hotel, Char No. 5 is one of the best spots in the city to drink Canadian whiskies, complete with a team of bartenders ready to wax historic on the origins of Canadian whiskey and prohibition days between serves. While previously devoted entirely to Canadian whiskies, they now boast a list of 155 labels that includes Scotch single malts and whiskies from South Africa.
THE FEATHERS PUB | 962 Kingston Rd.
Established in 1981, this British pub in the Upper Beaches knows whiskey. Featuring more than 400 labels from over 100 distilleries around the world, they’re renowned for their selection of single malts and pride themselves on their survey of independent bottlers. For adventurous drinkers, they’ve made things easier with a number of sampling flight menus curated around regions and taste profiles.
1602 DUNDAS STREET WEST
Forgoing frilly formalities as extravagant as a fixed name, Jason Abrams’ bar at 1602 Dundas St. W (also known as the Half Point, the No Name Bar, etc.) makes for a casual spot to get into some 300 whiskies, all priced aggressively with the neighbourhood competition in mind.
The BLACK DICE CAFE | 1574 Dundas St. W
This Japan-meets-50s diner-themed bar in Little Portugal might not offer the lengthiest list of whiskey selections in the neighbourhood, but it could very well be the best spot in the city to get to know Japanese versions of the brown spirits. Look beyond the jukebox and the pinball machine and you’ll find seven or eight Japanese whiskies behind the bar.
VIA ALLEGRO RISTORANTE | 1750 The Queensway
Via Allegro is a fine Italian dining destination in Etobicoke with international acclaim. It’s consistently awarded with prestigious prizes like the Whiskey Supreme Award from the UK, claiming to have the largest and most diversified selection in the world, with more than 1000 labels on hand, including more than 50 selections of Macallan dating back to 1937. Dress up for this one.
MONARCH TAVERN | 12 Clinton St.
With a history dating back to 1927, Monarch Tavern is a hidden treasure sandwiched between the whiskey-happy scenes on Dundas West and College. While the main floor is a hotbed for indie bands and cabaret nights, the public house upstairs is a bona fide local furnished with pool tables, big screen TVs, pinball, and 35 bourbon whiskeys to wet your whistle with.
Image courtesy drewcashmore via Instagram