It’s impossible to talk about cocktails in Toronto without talking about Barchef. Like it says on the tin, they’ve turned cocktails into haute cuisine. At times, it’s as much about theatrics as fine drinking.
They’re famous for two things: the molecular cocktails and their price tag, namely the $45 Vanilla Hickory Smoked Manhattan. A cocktail has to be pretty damn good to justify a $45 price tag. It better get on its knees and wow us for that, which is pretty much what it did. We won’t tell you what happens, but by the end it felt like we’d taken part in some sort of cult ceremony and sacrificed our virginity to the booze gods. Well kinda.
The brainchild of Frankie Solarik, who pioneered the contemporary cocktail movement in Canada, when this place opened in 2008 it was a total game changer. Toronto had never seen hand-carved ice cubes, housemade bitters or blowtorches utilised in the arsenal of a bartender before. Though you don’t have to go molecular. They have a list of prohibition-era sipping drinks, short drinks or punch bowls for sharing. These have all the skill and style of the fancier drinks, just without the theatrics.
It’s not just about avant garde mixology. The space is super stylish. It is dark, brooding, seductive and smells of a sauna. There are brocade sofas for lounging, ornate black mirrors, a bar lined with medicinal looking jars and heavy curtains to keep the action on the low down. At the weekends it gets busy with a cocktail drinking crowd, and the bar snacks are banging. Do it.