Our choice picks of where to sip beverages in key destinations around the world. Martini bars. Wine tasting rooms. Craft beer trucks. Our thirsty and savvy Angels and Agents have left no door unopened in their quest to find some of the world's most coveted watering holes!
Spirithouse, Toronto - Spirits, Eats and Cocktails
By Sasha Exeter
The first thing I thought of when walking through the doors of this establishment over the weekend was that it seemed like a trendier, luxe version of the neighborhood bar in the 80′s hit sitcom Cheers. Located in Toronto, on the Southwest corner of Adelaide and Portland, the newly opened spot exudes comfort with a homey, laid-back vibe… and I can see the King West condo dwellers and “suits” using this place as their after work hang out spot, similar to the Norm Peterson character on Cheers.
I almost missed this little treasure as it is located in an nondescript building just below ground level, but upon opening the large glass doors I was amazed to see what I would call a “ginormous” wrap around bar, which appeared to be sufficiently staffed with an adequate amount of bartenders and bar-backs. Meaning quite simply, patrons spent most of their time getting tipsy off the expertly made concoctions rather waiting for a life-time to place an order. With two lounge areas, which have a strong masculine feel, you will f ind; large, black, tufted leather couches and banquettes, worn in leather club chairs, reclaimed wood tables, vintage globes and sepia toned images of distilleries. Essentially a sophisticated “man-cave”, chic enough for us ladies.
Decor aside, it is the liquor menu that I should really be focusing on…they have a bottle collection of over 400 (one of the largest in the city) just to give you an idea of what they are working with! I was completely blown away by the vast variety of prepared drink options, which are conveniently segregated into six categories; House Cocktails, Vintage Cocktails, Modern Classics, Aficionados, Sparkling Cocktails and Mixed Drinks. Regular cocktail prices begin at $12 and can reach up to $48 for their barrel-aged cocktails, which are served in custom eight ounce bottles.
My 5 suggested picks…
- French 75 (Sparkling Cocktail) – gin, fresh pressed lemon, gomme syrup, and sparkling wine
- Gin Gin Mule (Mixed Drink) – gin, ginger beer, simple syrup, fresh pressed lime
- Caesar Sangrita (House Cocktail) – 100% agave mezcal, cracked salt & pepper, clamato, fresh pressed orange
- Sazerac (Vintage Classic) – rye whiskey, gomme syrup, peychand’s, & aromatic bitters and absinthe rinse
- The Boulevardier (Aficionados) – top shelf bourbon, aperitivo, Italian vermouth
487 Adelaide Street West (at Portland), Toronto
647 277 1187
Tuesday & Wednesday From 6pm-1am
Thursday & Friday from 6pm-2am
Saturday from 7pm-2am
The Salt Tasting Room, Vancouver
Though difficult to find in a back alley in the tourist district of Gastown, the search is worth the time. The Salt Tasting Room was named after the area's former butcher trade and was one of the first higher brow establishments to locate in Gastown (in 2006) - well before gentrification.
We rank this as one of Vancouver's best and most unique wine bars. Friendly and knowledgeable staff that take a lot of the guess work from trolling through wine lists. An extensive wine list (many BC wines are featured) is supported by a constantly-changing menu of 10 small-batch cured meats (think wild boar chorizo!), 10 artisanal cheeses, and 10 condiments. There is no kitchen here and all menu items are posted on a huge blackboard at the back. Reds and whites by the glass are in the C$8 to C$14 range, which is decent by Vancouver standards.
On a recent thirsty evening, a solo visit with the C$16 tasting plate and three glasses of wine ran under C$50. Don't by shy to ask the staff for suggestions...it takes the hassle out of thinking here! Lunchtime at Salt features hearty soups, shaved fennel salad, and various grilled sandwiches. The 18-foot-long communal table is excellent for large groups.
Lunch runs daily from noon to 3pm and features two types of sandwiches (served with a small soup and salad) at C$12.
Ron Brill describes the Salt Tasting Room best: "It combines the best aspects of a charcuterie, wine bar, and chill spot into one enigmatic meeting space."
Recently, they introduced the Salt Cellar Series - downstairs in the cellar on the 30' communal long table, experts join guests to celebrate amazing wine, cheese, and charcuterie producers. The price of the tickets are $51.60, tax and gratuity included.
The Salt Tasting Room
45 Blood Alley Square (in Gastown).
Monday-Thursday: 430PM-12AM (last call for food just before 11PM).
Nanuchka, Tel Aviv
A Savvy Traveller favourite - this trendy Georgian restaurant and bar is famed for its dumplings, friendly service - and extremely lively atmosphere at night. Great bar scene at night that sees this quaint establishment filled to the gills with a DJ playing excellent music from the 70s and 80s. You can place you trust entirely in the hands of the amiable bar staff, especially when it comes to wine recommendations. We suggest sampling some of Israel's lesser-known wines. If you are lucky, during the day, you might spot elderly ladies in the back hand-crafting sumptuous dumplings. The new location has much more space, including an upstairs area. Staff here speak good English and English-language menus are available.
We love the eclectic, almost Bohemian flavour of this bar and eatery. The red walls are covered with the owner's (Nana, who is originally from Georgia also owns the lovely Nana bar on Ehad Aham)) favorite verses of poetry, wine coloured satin drapes and paintings. Off the menu., we recommend the Chinkali dumpling (52NIS) - filled with lamb and broth and meat to be dipped into the spicy tomato sauce. The classic Georgian dough dish, Katchapuri (49NIS) is as authetntic as anything we have tasted elsewhere.
Nanuchka is an excellent spot for solo travellers, as the bar area is cozy and made for interacting with bar staff and visitors. At night don't be surprised to see patrons dancing on the bar. Definitely not a tourist trap; a place to let your hair down!
Sunday-Saturday: Noon until 5am.