Over the last decade, Toronto's bar scene has changed A LOT. Gone are the days when the best bars in Toronto were serving up a cocktail menu of vodka crans and rum and cokes. Beer taps no longer feature all foreign labels, as local brews have taken centre stage.

Torontonians have developed a more discerning palate. Now, it's all about nuanced notes and complex flavours — and the most elaborate presentation (billowing smoke and oversized garnishes, we're looking at you). With this evolution, the best bars in Toronto have grown and changed, and we've got a knockout list of the best of the best.

Don't get us wrong — these aren't all froofy bars serving a glass of mismatched ingredients for complexity's sake. Rather, we've narrowed down the best bars in Toronto for delicious drinks, ambience and generally just a roaring good time. While some bars are shaking up cocktails made with local Ontario spirits along with international ingredients like aquavit, others just hand over a canned concoction in a dimly-lit space that feels homier than home — and we love them all. Whether you're in need of a down-to-earth drink to decompress after work or want to get dressed to the nines and sip on a gram-worthy creation, we've got the best bars in Toronto for any vibe.

With the selection of impeccable fare at some of these spots, it can be hard to determine whether they're really bars or some of the best restaurants in Toronto, so we'll leave that up to you. Here are the best bars in Toronto for any occasion.

The 21 best bars in Toronto

21. Bar Poet

1090 Queen St. W.

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Step inside this dimly-lit West Queen West haunt and you’ll immediately feel like you’ve stepped outside — and onto the patio of one of Italy’s cobblestone alleyway restaurants. String lights twinkle overhead, hanging from faux trees that run the length of the restaurant. On tap they’ve got several local brews (including their own lager and IPA) along with a red and white wine. There’s more available by the glass or bottle, too. Cocktails range from the classics to house creations like the Candy Necklace with rhubarb and ginger gin, blueberry and cranberry syrup. The pizzas here are just as creative — our fave is the Microdose with garlic cream sauce, mushrooms and caramelized onions.


20. Communist’s Daughter

1149 Dundas St. W.

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If you’re looking for molecular mixology and cocktail garnishes that are hazardous to your eyesight, keep on walking past this Dundas West watering hole. However, if you’re in the mood for Saturday afternoon jazz in one of the coziest enclaves in the city, clear your calendar and just hang ten at this irresistibly cool dive bar. Legendary owner and bartender Michael Louis Johnson is just as likely to spin you a yarn as he is to pick up his trumpet (catch jazz manouche in the back alley in summer months). Order a campari soda, snag a seat at one of the Formica tables, and continue to slot your coins into the vintage jukebox as day turns to dusk.


19. Hole in the Wall

2867A Dundas St. W.

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Aptly named The Hole in the Wall, this long, narrow bar in the Junction had its tiny entranceway tucked behind an antique furniture shop for years before the owners took over both spaces. Now it’s a little easier to find with sister spot Botham’s next door, but it still retains all of its neighbourhood-watering-hole charm. The 16 taps feature Canadian brews, with local favourites like Collective Arts, Muskoka and Great Lakes, and they have a good wine selection. The cocktail and food programs here are excellent — tuck into oysters, confit duck wings, wood-fired sourdough pizza and their famous Sunday roast. Oh, and they have live music, too.


18. The Dive Shop

1036 Gerrard St. E.

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The last time we were at The Dive Shop, we had more fun in an hour than we did in all of 2020. Electric-blue booths, indoor palm trees, a back patio with swings and sand: Leslieville's newest locale is the city escape we need. Plus, the margaritas are fire (the coconut marg is our fave). If you're looking for a fun, easy-breezy bar night with your besties or a boo, get yourself down to the east end and into some daily Dive Shop specials, or some good ol' classics like a dark and stormy and a punchy paloma. The Dive Shop is open until 2 a.m., five nights a week (remember staying up past midnight?), and you can always expect great drinks and island vibes no matter what's going on outside.


17. Storm Crow Manor

580 Church St.

Finally Star Wars fans and Trekkies can put their differences aside at this delightfully nerdy bar that caters to Sci-Fi, fantasy and comic book lovers of all kinds. From the decked-out décor down to the list of drinks straight out of our favourite movies, Storm Crow Manor is an experience. Sip on a Romulan Ale or a Tatooine Blue Milk while you bask in the orange glow of the Cyberpunk Lounge or feel like a science experiment in the Mary Shelley bar. There are three stories of strange and fantastical rooms to explore. When it comes to everyone’s favourite part of the night (shots!), roll the D20 die to determine which of 20 random shooters you’ll get. And if all that wasn’t enough to keep you entertained, they’ve got board games, too.


16. Pinkerton’s Snack Bar

1026 Gerrard St. E.

Little India wasn’t always the hip pocket of Toronto it is today, but thanks to Marc Baglio, Andy Wilson and Adam Graham’s triumvirate of Gerrard Street bars, it’s one of our favourite hoods. We love Poor Romeo’s sports bar vibes, and Vatican Gift Shop is the best place for a boogie if you’re on the wrong side of 30 (and TERRIFIED of King Street) — but it’s Pinkerton’s Snack Bar that has us feeling sentimental. Named after a Weezer song, this Asian-inspired, late-night spot has a neighbourhood feel. Sidle up to the bar and order a paper plane over the alt-rock din. Pinkerton’s extended their bao menu over lockdown and launched a lineup of canned cocktails called Dynamite Kid. It’s sustained us until now, but we’re ready to soak up our sins in person with as many pillowy duck confit one-handers as we can manage before last call.


15. Rhum Corner

926 Dundas St. W.

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Rum often gets the short end of the spirits stick. Not at Rhum Corner though, where it's put on grand display and gets the attention it deserves. "It's hard to use the word 'cool' without feeling like a douche, but that's the concept," reads their website, and we're inclined to agree. This petite watering hole serves up bevies loaded with the good stuff alongside Haitian bites. The Zombie cocktail doesn't even have its ingredients listed because there are too many. You must try their house blend spiced rhum, and their rhum punch is the city's best. They don't take reservations, so walk in, stay awhile, then float on home.


14. Reyna on King

354 King St. E.

Escape to the Aegean with Mediterranean bites and bright cocktails in this airy, sunlight-filled space on King near Parliament. Settle in amongst the white brick walls and the tropical forest of lush greenery that hangs from the ceiling, and dig into dishes like grilled halloumi cheese souvlaki, chargrilled octopus and lamb baklava (a must-try). Alongside a list of classic cocktails, you’ll also find house creations like the Winter in Miami with rum, cream of coconut and prosecco. The wine list offers a curated selection with over a dozen options by-the-glass.


13. Reposado

136 Ossington Ave.

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In our youth, tequila may have been synonymous with too many shots, but there’s much more to this complex spirit — and Reposado, a dive-y bar on Ossington, is just the place to rediscover it. Known for their very impressive, extensive tequila collection, Reposado’s list covers all the bases: blanco, reposado (natch), añejo, extra añejo and mezcal. Sample a selection with one of more than a dozen flight options. For something a little tamer, tequila is also the star of their cocktail menu. Sip on a margarita or paloma while you chomp tacos on their adorable back patio.


12. Project Gigglewater

1369 Dundas St. W.

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If you find yourself strolling along Dundas West past dusk, you might just walk past the jet-black front of Project Gigglewater. While its exterior blends into the night, what awaits inside surely stands out in our minds. 'Giggle water' is a cheeky prohibition-era term for 'booze.' And the mood here is very much 1920s-underground where all the flappers and cool-cats go to punch the bag over some hooch (we'll stop). Classic cocktails are on the menu, but the creative team likes to play around with seasonal sippers and a rotating menu of small bites. P.S. The curved wooden bar is eye-catching, but really, it's set up so you can make eye contact with anyone who pulls up a seat. Meow.


11. Northwood

815 Bloor St. W.

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A Christie Pits stalwart, Northwood has been serving delicious cocktails in a cozy atmosphere since 2013. From classic cocktails to impossible (but mouthwatering) combinations like earl grey sours with black pepper; mezcal and strawberry; or sake and pineapple, this Bloor Street haunt’s skill with a cocktail shaker will keep you coming back again and again. Snuggle into a corner and warm up with an adorable hot toddy served in a cup and saucer or enjoy local beer and cider on their patio. The cocktail selection is honestly so good here, you could close your eyes and point and never be disappointed. Plus, the extensive glassware and garnish collection is a real serotonin boost for cocktail nerds.


10. Bar Mordecai

1272 Dundas St. W.

There's something inherently nostalgic about a hotel lobby when you think about all the people who have come and gone and the stories they unpack during their stay. The conceptual Bar Mordecai on Dundas West evokes this exact wistful grandeur from the hotel lobbies of yesterday. Inspired by the gorgeous, imaginative sets of Wes Anderson's films, every detail in this fanciful bar has been thoughtfully chosen, from the bubble-gum-pink bar, to fairytale scenes covering the mirrors like ivy, and the hand-picked vintage furniture. The same care and creativity go into their cocktails, developed by co-owner Christina Veira. Many of these crushable concoctions are takes on hotel lobby classics like the Royal Old Fashioned which uses Santa Teresa 1796 rum instead of whisky.


9. Bar Volo

17 St. Nicholas St.

If you’re looking for an effortlessly cool place to take out-of-towners, this is up there with the chicest drinking dens. Bar Volo, whose brick and olive green exterior can be found down an alley off Wellesley, feels like that European hole in the wall you stumbled on all those years ago on your best vacation. With a unique lineup of weird and wonderful imported wines of the red, white and funkier variety; extensive cask ales listed on the wall above the bar; and an artfully decorated space consisting of reclaimed doors, chairs and light fixtures, it’s hard to believe that Bar Volo had a former life. (In 2016, the 28-year old drinking establishment was evicted from the corner of Yonge and Dundonald to make way for a condo.) The cocktail list is inspired by Italian aperitivos, but you’ll find local collabs on the menu like the purple seltzer, made with grapes from Willibald Farm Distillery & Brewery.


8. Coffee Oysters Champagne

214 King St. W.

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It’s no surprise that the specialties here are exactly as the name suggests: coffee, oysters and champagne. Marble tables, velvety pink chairs and gold detailing set the scene in this cuter than cute café and champagne lounge. There are more than a dozen choices of bubbly by the glass ranging from sparkling wines to the real deal: champagne. There’s lots by the bottle and creative cocktails, too. Pair your bubbles with oysters (natch), which come naked or dressed, like the Boozy and Bright with pineapple, tequila and mint. There’s more to this bar than meets the eye, so before your night is over, be sure to ask to see the champagne room (wink, wink).


7. Mahjong Bar

1276 Dundas St. W.

Hidden behind a glowing pink bodega with no signage except a Mahjong tile marker overhead, Mahjong Bar is one of those cool spots only frequented by those in the know. Through the keyhole-shaped entryway, you’ll find a neon-lit bar with retro Hong Kong-style décor and a 36-foot mural painted by Toronto artist Gabriella Lo. Arrive in the evening if you want to dig into their menu of dumplings, noodles and banh mi or come late for DJs spinning hip-hop beats and a dance-y vibe (COVID restrictions permitting). Either way, expect delicious cocktails, local beer and a lot of fun.


6. Clockwork

100 Front St. W.

Even if the old world glamour and historic setting of the storied Fairmont Royal York’s lobby bar were not a factor, Rus Yessenov’s cocktails at Clockwork would be well worth the price of admission. What the director of beverage doesn’t know about cocktails isn’t worth knowing, and Yessenov is a savant with everything from a seemingly straightforward manhattan to more complex libations (with ingredients that you might have to Google). From pina colada spin-offs to clarified concoctions, every cocktail tells a story. Meet Me At The Clock, with a spherical frosé ice cube that keeps melting and intensifying as you drink, might be our death row tipple of choice. It’s a hotel bar, but our love for Clockwork is anything but fleeting.


5. BarChef

472 Queen St. W.

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Over a decade ago, before foodies were even talking about mixology, Frankie Solarik paved the way for a new cocktail culture that this city couldn't even imagine yet. BarChef was born and Toronto has never been the same. Don't just come here for a G&T (although we're sure it would be the best one you've ever had), go all out in true BarChef fashion. The cocktails here look like they could be on display at a modern art museum. It's not just dry-ice smoke and mirrors — the creations in their acclaimed, multi-sensorial Modernist Series are fanciful showpieces decked out like mini, intricate sets. We could spend all night just staring at the stunning, see-through, hand-cut ice, let alone all the beautiful details, aromas and ingredients that go into each Michelin-star-worthy drink. We're so grateful the pandemic hasn't completely shut down the show because the magnificent BarChef must go on.


4. Cry Baby Gallery

1468 Dundas St. W.

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Cocktails are equal parts art and science, and no place represents this glorious combination better than Dundas West's Cry Baby Gallery. Unbeknownst to passersby, it looks like a pocket-sized art gallery, which it is. However, behind the back display wall is an alluring speakeasy with lighting so good we only want to be photographed in there from now on, thank you. If your Wednesday – Sunday could use a little more razzle-dazzle, pull up a barstool and swoon over clever concoctions with cheeky names like the Woodbridge Athletic Club — their minty-fresh take on an espresso martini. Sip on anything from signature cocktails with house-made syrups to low-intervention wines. As for the snacks, it's what we'd expect at any cool artist's loft: cured sausage, taralli crackers and olives.


3. Bar Raval

505 College St.

It’s been seven years since Grant van Gameren opened the ambitious Bar Raval on College Street, but the Barcelonian beauty, designed by local firm Partisans, feels every bit as fresh today. Scalloped wood panels undulate along the bar and the ceiling, while bottles peek out of alcoves and patterned windows let in slithers of light, giving the impression that you’re in a Gaudi-inspired fun house — albeit, one with a fantastic selection of vermouth and sherry. The food and drink menu is designed to complement one another and, in entirely un-North American fashion, there’s little in the way of table service. Grab a spot around a vacant barrel, get your lean on and enjoy rum cocktails with toasted sesame, and bright aquavit and apple numbers paired with marinated octopus and their famous Kitchen Bread. One more glass of Spanish fizz and, suddenly, those legs aren’t aching quite as much…


2. The Cloak Bar

488 Wellington St. W.

Prior to the pandemic, this tiny bar beneath Marben was a fairly well-kept secret. However, after lockdowns kept it shuttered for the better part of two years, this speakeasy has become more synonymous with its farm-to-table sibling upstairs. Some of The Cloak Bar’s experimental sippers were made into ready-to-drink canned and bottled expressions at Marben’s marketplace. Yes, Farzam Fallah’s creations were delicious — but nothing can replicate the experience of calling the number on the door and being whisked behind a heavy curtain and into this dimly lit bar. Lola Alvarez, a tequila sour twist, and Violence in Chicago, the low-alcohol spin on a Campari soda, are great introductions to the heavy-hitting cocktail list. Or save your eyeballs from the phone glare (photographs are discouraged) and ask the bartender to mix you up a very original, original. You deserve it.


1. Mother Cocktail Bar

874 Queen St. W.

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Sneak behind a conspicuous wooden slat wall on Queen West and you’re transported into the mother of all drinking dens where a world of wonder, whimsy and fermentation awaits. Inside, incandescent Edison lightbulbs hang from suspended wood beams. Beneath them, the matte-black bar top glows with creations that transcend everything you think you know about cocktails. Pickled black garlic? With salted maple? In a drink? Only, the ingenious minds of Mother Cocktail Bar could make a sharp, earthy combo like that taste divine. Downstairs, kombucha scobys and lacto-fermenting fruit bubble in a scientist-esque cellar, bringing new dimensions of flavour and complexity to the serves upstairs. The rotating drink menu is divided into different themes that act as reminders for all sorts of feelings, places and memories. If you ever feel overwhelmed down this sensory rabbit hole, the friendly staff are all too happy to guide you. Or, you can just order a beer (and pair it with their lip-smacking brisket and short rib burger).