It may not be the city that never sleeps, but Toronto will definitely stay up late with you.
From inventive, upmarket cocktail spots and artsy hotel bars to secret hangouts and low-key pubs, Toronto’s bar and nightlife scene offers a little bit of everything. Here are just a few of the city’s best places to drink, dance, and dine late into the night. Who knows–you might even get to spot Toronto’s hometown hero, the rapper Drake.
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The Drake Hotel
An epicenter for art and culture in Toronto, The Drake (no relation to the rapper) packs in an underground club, a loungey ground-floor bar and restaurant, and a dynamic rooftop patio decked out with ever-changing art installations. On any given night, there could be DJs, a hip-hop show, cooking competitions, readings, or dance parties happening on the premises, and the food and cocktails are some of the best in the city. There are also 19 guest rooms.
There’s no shortage of bars making artful drinks in this city, but the creations at Barchef are on another level entirely. Housemade bitters and infusions like sage pisco and fig rum form the backbone of the adventurous cocktail menu, which features gels, foams, and smoke alongside your usual syrups and spirits. Simpler cocktails—and with a half-dozen ingredients each, we mean that loosely—clock in at around $16, but if you really want a drink to remember, break the bank on one of the “Modernist” cocktails—like their signature Manhattan, served under a dome filled with vanilla-hickory smoke, for $50.
Restaurateur Jen Agg is a household name in Toronto, and though she’s best known for helping popularize nose-to-tail dining at her now-shuttered Black Hoof, the drinks are never an afterthought at her restaurants. The proof is in the pudding at Cocktail Bar, her cozy Dundas West bar, where the ceiling is covered in pressed tin tiles and bottles gleam behind glass-paned cabinet doors. The drinks menu takes cues from classic cocktails to create flavorful selections packed with left turns—take the Absinthe Whip, which dresses up a classic Orange Whip cocktail with coconut and pistachio flavors; or the Steamboat Rickey, which melds cachaca and aquavit with celery, dill, and lime.
It’s essentially a Toronto rite of passage: walk into a lifeless-looking Kensington Market strip mall in the dead of night, look for the door illuminated with a single red light bulb, and step into dive bar Narnia. Named for the possibly-apocryphal Chinatown practice of ordering a teapot full of beer in unlicensed restaurants, Cold Tea is a modern, neon-lit spot where DJs spin and bartenders will invent something for you on the spot depending on what you feel like drinking that night. There’s also a cute little patio out back, and in the summer, they hold Sunday afternoon BBQs that rival the dance floor of any nightclub in town.
It takes its cues from a classic pintxos bar, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another place in Toronto (or anywhere) quite like Bar Raval. The bar’s compact interior, cloaked entirely in sculpted waves of mahogany, could be best described as a hobbit hole designed by Antonio Gaudí—a dramatic, elegant backdrop for noshing on housemade tins of seafood and skewers of mushrooms or tuna with pickled veggies. The drinks menu features liberal amounts of sherry and vermouth, both poured solo and as a star ingredient in cocktails. Locals enjoy the all-weather patio.
Though it only opened in 2016, this narrow Little Italy bar feels like it’s been there forever, with its weathered exposed brick, walled-off courtyard space, and beer hall-style tables and benches. The folks behind Birreria Volo run a successful beer-importing business, so you’ll find things here—including rare and limited-edition brews—that you won’t easily find anywhere else. While the tap list mostly focuses on Ontario and Québec brews, their on-site bottle program features some finds from across the U.S. and Europe, including a lengthy list of Belgians.
Mahjong Bar doesn’t look like much from the outside; in fact, it looks just like a little pink-walled convenience store, complete with boxes of Kraft Dinner, bags of Cheetos, and a few vintage girly magazines for effect. The real magic happens behind a smoke-gray vinyl curtain, which opens up to a massive back room with a lush jungle mural, cozy booths, and a checkerboard dance floor. Cocktails are tropical-inspired and delicious; beat the dance-party crowd and come earlier in the evening to dine on flavorful eats like beef noodle soup and savory hand pies.
The Bar At Alo
Alo needs no introduction among Canadian foodies—the downtown restaurant has been named the top spot in the country multiple times, and tasting-menu reservation slots evaporate as quickly as they become available. But there is one major workaround: the restaurant’s adjoining bar space takes no reservations, and it’s a top-flight experience in its own right. Service at the wraparound bar is impeccable and knowledgeable, with drinks tailored to customer preference—though the Armagnac Old Fashioned is a staple. The bar food, which includes seafood crudo and sumptuous desserts, absolutely hold a candle to the stuff being served next door (and don’t skip the bread).
Though the Ossington strip has changed around it over the years, Reposado, a dimly-lit shrine to tequila and mezcal, still pulls them in night after night. Behind the bar, bottles glow beneath stained-glass windows salvaged from an old church in Québec, providing a romantic, slightly transgressive backdrop for sampling flights of premium tequila (there isn’t much shot-pounding going on here) or munching on tequila-cured salmon and mini empanadas. Rounding out the intimate vibe are live jazz music and DJs most nights.
Toronto has enjoyed a beer boom in recent years, but even with new breweries popping up monthly, Bellwoods is still the reigning champ. The two-floor flagship brewery on Ossington is still a hot destination nearly a decade in, largely due to the industrial-cool atmosphere, sunny front patio (complete with white picket fence), and tasty bar snacks. But the main draw, naturally, is a line-up of creative seasonal beers, many of which are produced in ultra-limited amounts. Sour beer fans should head straight for the Jelly King line, which comes in a variety of fruit flavors and is so beloved by locals that people actually line up at the adjoining bottle shop on release day.