Montréal was called “Sin City” in the 1920s, when Americans streamed in to drink during the Prohibition. The name still applies, albeit in a tamer form. Nightlife in Montréal is booming: in one evening, you can dance to the setting sun at an outdoor rave, sip potent cocktails from mason jars, or practice your bilingual flirting on a thumping rooftop. Here’s our roundup of the best Montréal cocktail and wine bars, old and new.
Toast the ostrich heads presiding over this long-running bar that somehow never gets old. Bily Kun was doing “barnyard-chic” before anyone else in Montréal and while this can look contrived at other bars, here it’s a casually perfect backdrop for sipping cocktails and imported suds.
Bily Kun, 354 ave du Mont-Royal est
Medicine of the alcoholic sort is dispensed at this sleek yet chilled bar that takes its cues from an old-fashioned pharmacy, where the owner’s grandmother once worked. Try the signature Lionel – vodka, gin, fresh lime juice and Prosecco – followed by a grilled-cheese sandwich. Just what the doctor ordered.
Baldwin Barmacie, 115 ave Laurier ouest
La Distillerie serves cocktails in mason jars (which may seem brilliant at the time, but perhaps less so the headachey morning after.) The drinks are big, but each is expertly made with seasonal ingredients, like the M’Peached (Canadian Club whiskey, grapefruit, peach purée) and the Rock ‘A’ Rula (Amarula cream liqueur, Angostura bitters, egg white).
La Distillerie, 300 rue Ontario est
Le Lab Comptoir a Cocktails
The retro-soaked world of handcrafted cocktails sometimes has a whiff of elitism. Not so at Le Lab. This low-lit lounge invites lingering rather than posing. Here, it’s only the cocktails that are the show-offs, like the Jerky Lab Jack, with Jack Daniels, Curaçao, cane sugar, orange zest, housemade BBQ bitters and a garnish of, yep, a chewy strip of beef jerky.
Le Lab Comptoir a Cocktails, 1351 rue Rachel est
Much like the premium wine it pours, this bar hits all the right notes. The innovative interior matches the vintage bottles behind the bar, with a wine-glass chandelier, tawny woods and exposed concrete walls. Québec is known for its ice wines, but the region’s vineyards produce a lot more – this is the place to sample local reds and whites.
Pullman, 3424 ave du Parc
Whisky, cigars, dark leather. Yes, there’s a clubby, muscular edge to this dimly lit bar, but it’s balanced by the friendly bartenders, playful crowd and funky soundtrack.
Whisky Café, 5800 blvd St-Laurent
Bar Salon La Porte Rouge
When you’re in one of those moods to wear flared pants and sip Shirley Temples, swing by La Porte Rouge, a trashy-turned-flashy bar with a fondness for the 70s. On a good night, the red banquettes glow, the Tom Collins flow freely and Farrah Fawcett lookalikes shimmy to synthpop.
Bar Salon La Porte Rouge, 1834 ave du Mont-Royal
Foamy cappuccinos give way to cocktails at this mod café-lounge. By day, you can brunch on fat omelettes and crepes, while at night, the electro music is dialed up – as is the crowd.
Laïka, 4040 blvd St-Laurent
Dodge the flying sweat at this go-go gay nightclub, loosely (and decadently) inspired by the Greek Parthenon, with two dancefloors, flashing LED lights and plenty of cocktail-fuelled flirting.
Apollon, 1450 Ste-Catherine est
Like most big cities, plenty of Montréal’s hotels have rooftop bars. Verses Sky, crowning the charming Nelligan’s Hotel, is still one of the best, with well-poured cocktails, skyline views and music set at that prime level where you can talk without shouting.
Verses Sky, 106 rue St Paul ouest