Defined by their hidden entrance and secretive nature, speakeasies are purposely not easy to find. Seeking that speakeasy surprise but need some hints to get you started? We’ve got you covered with our complete guide to discovering the best speakeasies in Toronto.
But first, what is a speakeasy?
To understand why the speakeasies of today make for a unique bar experience, we must look at the past. Speakeasies find their roots in the Prohibition era between 1920 and 1933. Since the sale and consumption of alcohol was illegal at this time, people began to serve alcohol in discrete, secret locations with no signage. These disguised bars were known to very few, often operating on a “by invitation only” standard or requiring a password for entry.
While this is the origin of the speakeasy, modern speakeasies have evolved from their original purpose—some of their signature characteristics include:
- An entrance that is hard to find.
- No signage.
- Cocktails are the primary offering.
- Does not engage in bottle sales.
- Relies on word of mouth to become known.
Establishments that call themselves speakeasies but advertise their presence to the general public aren’t true speakeasies. Real-deal speakeasies put the effort into staying a secret. Luckily, we’re here to help. Read on for our top picks for the best speakeasies in Toronto.
Tucked away under Marben restaurant on Wellington Street, this speakeasy serves cocktails named after popular punk songs. To find your way into this hidden gem, head to 488 Wellington Street and finding a neon “BAR OPEN” sign. You’ll then have to call the number listed in order to gain entrance. One step inside this dimly lit, intimate speakeasy and you will wonder why it took you so long to get here.
The Toronto Temperance Society
One of Toronto’s most beloved bars for almost a decade; the Toronto Temperance Society is operated by well-dressed bartenders with an extensive knowledge of high-quality cocktails. While the Toronto Temperance Society deviates a little from the typical characteristics of a speakeasy by offering a beer menu, this means there is an even wider selection of beverages to enjoy. Similar to the speakeasies of the Prohibition era, the Toronto Temperance Society operates on a “member’s only” basis—all you have to do is give the host a call to see if they can accommodate you (don’t forget how to ask how to find the entrance!). You’ll find this boozy hideout above the Sidecar restaurant on College Street.
Behind a secret door located in a comic book and toy shop in Yorkville lies one of Toronto’s best speakeasies—Figures: a comic-themed speakeasy and restaurant that caters to those craving some nostalgia. As the appearance of the speakeasy goes, a local favourite is the neon Pacman found in the ceiling. Superhero fans will want to spend some time admiring the several figurines and comics on display before venturing to find the secret door. Once you’re ready, all you have to do is push a button at the bar’s entrance.
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