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The Cross-Canada Hotel Bar Hop

We drank our way from coast to coast and learned that sometimes you stay for the night but go for the drinks.

British Columbia  /  Alberta  /  Saskatchewan & Manitoba
Ontario  /  Québec  /  East Coast

British Columbia


Photo: courtesy of Rosewood Hotel Georgia


Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Vancouver

Work and play
The sound system at this Howe Street speakeasy hidden beneath the Hotel Georgia (look for the green light above the massive wood doors) has been carefully calibrated so you don’t have to shout over the live jazz. That makes the dark, moody room perfect for a bit of business accompanied by tie-loosening absinthe (dripped over sugar cubes from a belle époque-style fountain), albacore tuna sliders and bartenders whose tricks and bottle tosses are part of the show. No wonder Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole used to hang out here.

801 West Georgia St.,

Sylvia’s Bar, The Sylvia Hotel, Vancouver

Photo: Kelly Annable

Sylvia’s Bar

The Sylvia Hotel, Vancouver

Toast the town
The city’s first legal cocktail bar – opened in 1954 – is an English Bay favourite and the birthplace of the “Vancouver” cocktail (gin, vermouth, Benedictine and orange bitters). A giant mirror behind the bar in the cheery, carpeted lounge means you don’t have to choose between the First Beach view and chatting with long-time bartender Ace Mujagic. It’s just the spot to soak up a sense of place and dispel jet lag, especially with an order of dill-flecked Dungeness crab cakes with aioli.

1154 Gilford St.,

Gerard Lounge

Photo: Amy Ho

Gerard Lounge

Sutton Place Hotel, Vancouver

Drink like De Niro
Debra Holden, behind the bar for three decades, tells stories of Hollywood North’s heyday, when De Niro and Pacino would drink in this brass-and-leather-dappled lounge. Today, you can still spot visiting VIPs sunken into wingbacks by the fireplace, along with local business types and bankers who gather after the final bell, partly for the sparkling seafood towers loaded with Pacific oysters, wild shrimp and mussels from nearby Read Island, and partly for Debra’s award-winning (and off-menu) GinSing Martini, which is more of a Tom Collins: mixed with gin, apricot brandy, citrus, soda – and no ginseng (the name is a play on the way gin sings in the drink).

845 Burrard St.,

Bearfoot Bistro Champagne Lounge

Photo: Scott Vesper

Bearfoot Bistro Champagne Lounge

The Listel Hotel, Whistler

Bring your entourage
Unwind after a day on the slopes at this over-the-top spot, where après-ski means bubbles and caviar. Owner André Saint-Jacques once broke the Guinness record for most champagne bottles sabred in a minute, and guests are welcome to give it a go – which has “good idea” written all over it, doesn’t it? The ice rail that runs along the pewter bar keeps your glass permafrosted, though for the true freeze factor, slip into a provided parka and visit the Ketel One Ice Room, where more than 50 different vodkas are kept at -32°C, the perfect temperature to mellow the booze’s sting.

4121 Village Green,

Veneto Tapa Lounge

Photo: Simon Ogden

Veneto Tapa Lounge

Hotel Rialto, Victoria

Play spin the wheel
Feeling lucky? Tell the suspender-clad bartenders you’d like to “spin the wheel”: Pick a spirit and your favourite flavour profile (sweet, tart, smoky, etc.) and they’ll make your custom-cocktail dreams come true. There’s also a creative drinks menu where each offering is credited to the bartender who designed it, like Caledonia Wright’s Mile-High Club (gin, dry Curaçao and carrot vermouth). Stop in for mid-afternoon tapas, like the sticky Korean chicken wings, when light floods the floor-to-ceiling windows.

1450 Douglas St.,


Mahogany Room

Photo: Fort Edmonton Park

Mahogany Room

Hotel Selkirk, Edmonton

Party like it’s 1929
Frontier-era ghosts are alive and well inside Fort Edmonton Park, the city’s historical re-enactment village, where you’ll find the Hotel Selkirk, a replica of the Windsor Hotel (a Jasper Avenue legend that burned in 1962). Its saloon looks like it was airlifted in from the set of Boardwalk Empire: a 50-person stand-up bar styled with art deco tiles and light fixtures and filled with Gatsby-era tunes. Grab a Sidecar (Cointreau, cognac and lemon with a dash of maraschino liqueur) and a cheesy preztel stuffed with jalepeno and munster, topped with parmesan and served with cheddar sauce, before a screening of The Sting at the vintage Capitol Theatre next door.

1920 St.,


Photo: Semi Vujcic of Social Lite Communications


Marriott Downtown, Calgary

Pair whisky with whisky
More than 270 varieties of the brown stuff, including pours from France, China and India (Amrut Fusion is a rich, dark chocolatey sip from India’s first whisky distillery) are served at this after-work haunt lined with comfy plaid banquettes. For an extravaganza, pair a Black Walnut Old Fashioned (walnut bitters with Maker’s Mark, smoky from a glass prepped over a chunk of torched whisky barrel) with Jim Beam-braised short ribs packed into adorable mini Yorkshire puddings. Don’t forget to ask the barkeep about the old Empire Hotel, which burned down on this very spot.

820 Centre St. S.,

Saskatchewan & Manitoba

Lobby Bar

Photo: Adam Buhay

Lobby Bar

The James Hotel, Saskatoon

Find your prairie hotel companion
Like the name of the hotel, the retro cocktail menu is a tribute to James Leier, a Russian immigrant who founded his hotel empire after arriving in Canada around the turn of the 19th century (and was known to enjoy a stiff Rusty Nail). Today, his grandchildren operate Saskatoon’s only luxury boutique hotel. Cozy up on a couch in front of the onyx-wrapped fireplace and enjoy the Birth of Cool (mixing Grey Goose La Poire, St. Germain and lemon), as you dunk fluffy beignets into crème anglaise and take in the view of the South Saskatchewan River.

620 Spadina Cres. E.,

Merchant Kitchen

Merchant Kitchen

The Alt Hotel, Winnipeg

Survive tequila on tap
The giant rooster on the wall – the work of local graffiti artist Pat Lazo – is already an Instagram celebrity at this go-to spot next to the Alt Hotel, which fills up before or after Jets games or concerts at the nearby Bell MTS Place. The mood is loud and lively, the esthetic (and menu) inspired by Latin American and Asian street food. Alternate bites of grilled corn slathered in mayo and feta with shots of Casamigos Blanco and Reposado, on tap. “You know what goes really well with tequila?” the barman asks. “More tequila.” (This may explain the loud-and-lively thing.)

314 Donald St.,


Roof Lounge

Roof Lounge

Park Hyatt, Toronto

Grab a TIFF drink
During the Toronto International Film Festival, the people-watching at this glamorous 18th-storey rooftop bar is prime, as actors and insiders schmooze and misbehave after days spent press-conferencing. (Ralph Fiennes, Susan Sarandon and Colin Firth have all been spotted in past years.) When you’re done gawking, settle in by the flickering fireplace, order the seafood charcuterie board and a Blood Orange Manhattan (Basil Hayden bourbon, blood orange bitters, sweet vermouth and an orange twist), and ponder the Royal Ontario Museum’s alien-ship design across the street.

4 Avenue Rd.,

Library Bar

Photo: courtesy of FRHI Hotels & Resorts

Library Bar

Fairmont Royal York, Toronto

Super-size your martini
The walls of the Library Bar are lined with bookshelves where long-time guests have been known to leave love notes for each other hidden between pages. Whether it’s the soundtrack of Ella Fitzgerald or the cushiness of the leopard-print sofas, this is a place that demands free time dedicated to sipping and reading. The frothy Tipple in a Teacup mixes egg white with lemon and Earl Grey tea-infused gin in Royal Elfreda china, but the bar is most famous for its three-ounce birdbath martinis – shaken tableside and poured from a pre-frosted, birdbath-sized carafe. Offset its buzz with traditional fish and chips battered in Apiary Ale infused with honey from hives on the hotel’s rooftop.

100 Front St. W.,

Drake Lounge

Photo: Ksenija Hotic

Drake Lounge

Drake Hotel, Toronto

Get quizzical
The indie art hotel that turned Queen West into hipster central over a decade ago still fills up every night of the week thanks to a roster of frenetically fun events like Highchair Hangouts (when chef de cuisine Alexandra Feswick cooks for parents in need of a night out – and their babies) and rowdy trivia nights. Slide into a green leather banquette and order the Rust + Bone (cedar-infused Four Roses with Nonino Quintessentia amaro and sweet Benedictine) to stoke your appetite for the rightfully famous bacon burger with Russian dressing on a soft milk bun.

1150 Queen St. W.,

Options Jazz Bar

Options Jazz Bar

Brookstreet Hotel, Ottawa

Have a grand ol’ time
Sitting at a two-top when the Carl Daniel Quintet launches into Cannonball Adderley, you may regret having left your beret and turtleneck at home. At this jazz venue, which is anchored by a red baby grand piano and decorated with photos of greats like Oscar Peterson, performers take the stage seven nights a week, so you’re sure to catch a show. In the summer, a sprawling patio tricked out with cushy sofas and fire tables is the best place to sample beers from some of the Ottawa region’s indie makers: Big Rig, Kichesippi and Beau’s.

525 Legget Dr.,

Wilk’s Bar

Photo: Jonathan Bielaski

Wilk’s Bar

Langdon Hall, Cambridge

Swirl, sip, repeat
Back in the days when Langdon Hall was a Downton Abbey-style manor, its bar was the Trophy Room, where the men would retire for a cigar and a port after dinner. Today, everyone is welcome (about time) and the space feels like a luxe country home with a really great Ontario wine cellar. Pair a sparkling, bright estate-grown rosé from Hinterland in Prince Edward County with lobster and prawn patties nestled with pickles in coriander-seed pain au lait.

1 Langdon Dr.,


Être Avec Toi

Être Avec Toi

W Hotel, Montréal

Drink for the arts
Local art covers every surface of this business-district hot spot, dubbed E.A.T. for short: Montréal illustrator Jason Wasserman was seemingly given free rein to ink high-top tables and walls in cartoons of such local personalities as mayor Denis Coderre and the Canadiens’ mascot Youppi! Montreal DJs, including Florence Masson and jojoflores, are in charge of the soundtrack, which beats softly as a rolling cart comes by, offering Laurent-Perrier rosé champagne to go with your Moroccan-style tuna tartare dotted with dates, almonds, a quail’s egg and mint.

901, rue du Square-Victoria,

Dom Pérignon Bar

Photo: courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Montréal

Dom Pérignon Bar

Ritz-Carlton, Montréal

Raise a glass
Tucked into the Ritz-Carlton’s palatial Palm Court, the first Dom Pérignon bar in North America invites you to splurge just because. Beneath a frescoed ceiling, afternoon tea – a tradition here since 1912 – brings multi-tiered plates of house-baked cakes and scones with raspberry-rose petal jelly. You might be tempted to stay until dinner and order the lobster Caesar salad and brut or rosé bubbles, available both in regular vintages or rare specialties (some over $100 a flute).

1228 Rue Sherbrooke O.,

East Coast

The Lounge

Photo: Chris Crockwell

The Lounge

Luxus Hotel, St. John’s

Booze before you snooze
The front desk at Newfoundland’s first five-star hotel is also the lobby bar, which means bellmen (slash bartenders) can mix you a delicious cocktail upon arrival, using housemade sodas and syrups – the perfect thing to melt away travel tension. Order the S’nantny, named after the town of St. Anthony, which mixes rum, lychee liqueur and mint, then sink into a yellow armchair and snack on creamy crab dip. The instant aaah! moment will prepare you for your suite’s heated floors and plush robe (your vacation uniform).

128 Water St.,

SPG Lounge

Photo: courtesy of Four Points

SPG Lounge

Four Points by Sheraton, Halifax

Go beyond the pale ale
“Cheers to great beers” is the unofficial motto on Best Brews night every Wednesday when the happy hour includes a rotating menu of favourite local suds. The event has proven so popular, the hotel recently licensed its entire lobby to accommodate the growing crowd of regulars. Sip a Hoppy Buoy American-style IPA by Halifax’s own Garrison Brewing Company (spiked with mango for a juicy finish) and grab chili-grilled corn on the cob, ribs and brisket from the no-frills buffet. Then settle in front of the big screen for a hockey game or a Gaelic football match (like soccer, only you can pick up the ball and dribble it, and rugby-style hits are allowed).

1496 Hollis St.,



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