Cocktails in Winter with Three Cool Toronto Bartenders

By Ilona Kauremszky


The temperatures dipped.

It’s below zero, there’s no end to the falling white powder and to boot you’ve been downtown in the thick of the shopping scene and could use a break now.

What are you going to do?

Slip inside one of the city’s neighbourhood pubs and put your feet up. There’s nothing better than quaffing back a seasonal elixir to perk up the festive vibe.

Here’s what three of the Toronto’s top bartenders are setting their sights on this season.

The Chase

From nearly 50 competitors Hogtown Shakedown winner Shane Mulvany of The Chase just became the nation’s number one bartender winning the Canadian Cocktail Challenge in Vancouver so he is definitely the go-to guy for frosty libations.

He says two of his wintery cocktails are drumming up a lot of buzz.

It helps the new two-floor venue in the Financial District is quickly gaining heed among the cognoscenti as a food and drink destination. If you head upstairs to the more posh digs oozing in rich earthy tones be sure to ask for The Rum.

“We don’t go for fancy names there –all our drinks upstairs are given one name,” he says with that Irish lilt in his voice. (Shane’s originally from Ireland).

Still this Rum is like no other. Expect a take on the Mexican drink horchata with rice and almond milk flavoured with cinnamon, vanilla and clove so wintery yet not overly rich or heavy. The almond and rice milk is a secret homemade mixture. Infused with Havana Club 7 it’s “the aged one and has got sweetness and spice.”

At the nautical-themed bar on the main floor that feels very Hampton-like with Ralph Lauren fabrics you’ll discover a creamy take on rum and raisin ice cream in the style of egg nog. Called Splice The Mainbrace Shane says he named this rum soaked baby after an old naval term.

The Emmet Ray

Need a hefty whisky list look no further than this College and Dovercourt ultra hip hang-out.

Proprietor Andrew Kaiser who covered six European countries as an area manager before opening this boozy den is the go-to guy on anything scotch. The city’s weekly NOW magazine anointed Kaiser’s Emmet Ray a few weeks ago as the King of Scotch garnering the best scotch list in Toronto by NOW Magazine readers.

His seasonal take is a variation on the Hot Toddy with Sailor Jerry rum, a whisky of your choice, honey and a mix of spices.

Why should people drop by? That’s easy. “With 213 whiskies and growing it is the perfect drink to warm up with. Live music four nights a week and DJ’s on the weekend, you are always entertained at The Emmet Ray,” says Andrew.


Those trendy types into the molecular bar scene can pull up a seat at the BarChef.

Voted top 100 best bars of the world by Food and Wine Magazine I figured co-owner Frankie Solarik who is mostly behind the scenes in the kitchen concocting his popular liquid nitrogen infusions would have some special chilling holiday drinks.

Try his new cocktail on their Modernist menu called the “Mayan Hot Cocoa.” This boozy bevvie has a pairing of Cocoa, mint, orange, bitter almond, balsam fir, Mezcal, maple and late harvest Vidal so it’ll be the kind of drink that makes you want to curl up in a cozy seat and hang for a while.

“Our Modernist and progressive approach to cocktails has garnered us press around the world, we actually receive more press internationally then locally, we were also recently featured on CNN,” says Frankie on the high accolades.

Located in Toronto’s trendy Queen West neighborhood the bar is glam black chic styled with smooth leather banquettes set against aged exposed red brick walls, swaggy velvet curtains and a super long black bar ideal for the hipsters of the neighbourhood. The dim lighting helps too. Makes you forget about the winter wonderland outside.

Ilona Kauremszky covers the travel industry for leading consumer and trade publications and her writing is published in a wide variety of media outlets worldwide. A syndicated travel columnist Ilona is also a blogger and web producer of She has appeared as a travel expert on TV and radio for NPR, CBC News Now and Egyptian National Television to name a few. Ilona recently received the coveted Discover America Travel Writer Award presented by the US Travel Association for her editorial work. A self-confessed travel scribe Ilona admits she’s forever on the prowl for the next cool story especially when it involves her home turf, Toronto.

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