5 essential spots to discover Montreal’s innovative mixology scene
Inventive, refined, quirky, cutting-edge… Montreal’s cocktail bar culture is as rich and multifaceted as the city itself. Here are our top 5 picks to get familiar with one of the most exciting and boundary-pushing mixology scenes out there.
We can’t talk about cocktail culture in Montreal without mentioning Le Lab. This trailblazing venue is responsible for inspiring countless others since opening its doors in 2008, and is where many of the local industry’s best and brightest earned their first stripes. As its name indicates, this place is all about experimental mixology, and you’ll be sure to come out of it having learned a thing or two. Le Lab’s team are so dedicated to their craft that they even developed their own brand of artisanal vermouths, bitters and syrups, allowing them to always have ingredients that meet their (very high) standards on hand, as well as enabling their loyal customers to replicate the bar’s recipes at home.
Next to the Ritz Carlton Montreal is a handmade menswear and barber shop named Maison Cloakroom. Hidden behind the elegant tailor shop is Bar Cloakroom, a “bespoke speakeasy” with sister venues in Melbourne and Tokyo, and a standalone store in Brisbane. The small, intimate venue only seats 25, and its dark and cozy atmosphere makes it perfect for a date. There is no menu here, all cocktails are made to measure based on your personal preferences. Trust your bartender and have fun with it, we promise you won’t be disappointed.
Atwater Cocktail Club
By the same team behind next door restaurant Foiegwa, this buzzing venue serves up a mean cocktail game alongside some truly delicious food in a dim, intimate yet festive atmosphere. Venture into the dark back alley, push the door, and take a moment to take in the moody, candlelit interior with dark wooden floors, fuchsia banquettes and mirrored ceilings. Head straight to the glossy marble bar and let the friendly staff guide you. This speakeasy-style cocktail joint doesn’t take reservations (and gets pretty crowded), so we advise you get there early.
Set inside Fairmont’s The Queen Elizabeth hotel, sleek, sensual and sophisticated Nacarat is very serious about its cocktails. A perfect blend of precision and innovation, Nader Chaabane’s creations are the result of a unique approach almost reminiscent of perfume-making. The menu is arranged like a tasting wheel, allowing customers to choose their poison based on its flavor profile rather than its base spirit and ingredients. Both the latter are not mentioned – a way to go around any of the customers’ conscious or unconscious biases, as well as foster curiosity and a sense of surprise.
“Good times, good cocktails, good people” is the motto of this hidden basement bar at the heart of Vieux-Montréal, and we feel that sums it up pretty nicely. Follow the rubber duck, ring the doorbell and wait to be escorted in the former 19th century industrial cold room downstairs, which has been skillfully transformed into a warm and atmospheric lounge. Abide by the house rules and you’ll be sure to have a great time. Enjoy the people-watching – you might spot a couple of famous faces – and some of the best cocktails in the country.