This jaw-dropping Toronto bar immerses you in cocktail history

Step back in time at Prequel & Co. Apothecary, Frankie Solarik's new experiential cocktail bar styled like a late 1800s Paris pharmacy.

Cocktails sit on the bar at Prequel and Co. Apothecary, Frankie Solarik's new bar

"I call it the auditorium of perspective,” proclaims Frankie Solarik about the concept of his new bar, Prequel and Co. Apothecary. I’ve managed to pin down the busy cocktail maven behind BarChef for a phone interview, which I’m thankful for because I don’t want him to see how starstruck I am. His voice crackles dramatically through the speaker, “It’s the idea of using a multi-sensorial approach for a… transportive experience,” he adds.

Frankie Solarik and Kurt Tissera at Prequel & Co. Apothecary

Solarik’s words drip with grandeur, and when I step into Prequel, I realize they’re fitting. A deep-blue faux storefront off Queen West opens up into a space styled like a late 1800s Paris apothecary, historical dispensaries credited with the birth of modern cocktail culture. Inside, dried herbs, spices and botanicals in dusty jars line deep-brown oak walls; classic French music drifts down from hidden speakers; and an antique rotary phone glistens behind a receptionist’s desk. After a short wait, one party at a time is ushered through a secret entrance to Prequel’s spacious back-room bar.

Here, bartenders sporting tightly knotted bow-ties whisk out tipples with lightning speed. Don’t expect BarChef’s famed spectacles — instead, subtle details are how these drinks shine. Prequel’s méthode classique technique takes cocktails back to their roots by grinding spices with cast-iron mortar and pestles, muddling herbs and squeezing citrus à la minute (to order). The result is complex drinks primed for slow sipping and savouring.

The cocktail menu is divided into three sections: Classics, genre-defining drinks like a daiquiri or negroni; the Herbaceous, Citrus & Floral section, with brighter bevvies; and Forest, Woods & Smoke, for darker, spiced and more spirit-forward options. A cryptic message awaits at the end of Prequel’s cocktail menu: “To be continued…” When I ask Solarik what that means, I can practically hear his mischievous smirk and steepled fingers. “It’s going to be a trilogy,” he says of BarChef and Prequel, without offering more details. We’ll just have to wait and see what he stirs up next.

Champagne & Absinthe cocktail at Prequel and Co. Apothecary, Frankie Solarik's new bar
Cedar and Ginger Mule cocktail at Prequel and Co. Apothecary, Frankie Solarik's new bar
Apothecary 1036 cocktail at Prequel and Co. Apothecary, Frankie Solarik's new bar