Bars in Montreal are a heady blend of French and English culture, just like the city itself. French Canadian bartender, writer, and consultant Philippe Grandbois collected recommendations from Montreal’s bartenders to put together this list of the top five bars in Montreal.
As Canada’s third oldest, second largest, and most recognizable city, Montreal has a rich history. The Metropolis, as it’s known, has a thriving bar scene, and is often called the “most European city in Canada.” Montreal offers a growing list of drinking dens to tourists and locals. Both French and English are spoken here, and both cultures are visible as well. You can see this relationship in harmony in the styles of bars in Montreal.
Bartenders and hospitality professionals are often regulars at the cities best bars. So ahead of a week-long trip to Montreal, I reached out to the industry to suggest five bars to visit. Here are five of the bars in Montreal that are most recommended by bartenders.
Bars in Montreal – The Coldroom: The new kid in Old Port
When you search for the door of The Coldroom in Old Port Montreal, you may walk right past it. A subtle rubber duck adorns the pavement in front of the door. Once inside, met by a cordial host, this place starts to make sense. You’re escorted down a staircase, through the walk-in cooler. At last, greeted with a warm room, the atmosphere is classic. The layout is topped only by a team of well-trained bartenders.
Co-owner Kevin Demers wanted to open a venue that spoke to a team philosophy: “Casual approach, special experiences.” With the likes of Daniel Boulianne & Pierre-hugues Marois manning the bar and floor, this one-year-old speakeasy will be making its mark well into the future.
Bar Le Lab: The Legend
This bar is synonymous with cocktail culture in Montreal. Le Lab has been around since the beginning of the cocktail renaissance in Canada. Many of the industries brightest bartenders have come from this award-winning brand. Having opened a second location this year, it’s hard to nail down what to love most about this company. Fabien Maillard, co-owner of Le Lab brands, has new vermouths on the Quebec market, along with a successful line of syrups available across Canada.
When you walk into the new Lab location on St Catherine Est, you’ll see elements of the original (also highly recommended). The bar stands front and center in the room, like a stage. A glowing back bar with plenty of eye-catching products brings you into the bartenders’ space.
132 Bar Vintage: The bar on an island
Most of the cocktail dens in Montreal are within walking distance of one another. Aside from 132 Bar Vintage, of course. In 2013, Jean-Maxime Giguere wanted to open a bar that felt like a “second living room.” Many thought he was crazy to open in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville area – fifteen minutes’ drive from Montreal downtown in an old Haitian grocery store.
Giguere lived in the neighborhood for years before deciding to open 132 Bar Vintage. The resulting concept is an ode to the nomadic life of the man himself – rugged and simple, well-traveled and welcoming. The space is low lit and could be mistaken for an everyday pub until you pull up at the bar to see the array of rum and whiskey. If you don’t feel like making the trek out to 132 Bar Vintage, Giguere has also brought his talents to one of the newest bars in Montreal, Idole.
Cloakroom Bar: The most recommended hidden gem
To find Cloakroom Bar requires that you know where to look. This speakeasy is hidden behind a discreet door in a tailor shop bearing the same name, and perched next door to the Ritz Carlton Montreal.
Andrew Whibley is a rare Anglophone fronting the concept. Andrew and his partners also have a sister business in Brisbane, Australia, and they’re soon to have one in Melbourne as well.
The concept is disarmingly simple. Three syrups, house tinctures and a focus on guest interaction. Andrew walks me through a simple concept of getting even a novice guest to feel comfortable. No menus, simple, cordial interactions. It is beautiful.
Cloakroom Bar has completed a massive renovation and added much-needed prep space. I hear whispers of commercial juicing and cocktail classes coming in 2018.
Nacarat: Innovation in high volume, high-quality cocktails
Every city has an iconic hotel that has stood longer than memory recalls. In Montreal, that hotel is the Queen Elizabeth (La Reine Elizabeth). Having just undergone a massive renovation and re-opening six months ago. This Fairmont managed property is gorgeous and a must see. Nader Paoparti is the man behind the lobby bar concept, Nacarat (“Orange”). Nader is a skilled Parisian and wanted to bring innovation to this cocktail bar. It’s high volume, high quality.
With the look of a classic French kitchen, he separates the stations like a modern Escoffier: white spirits in one, rum and tiki in another, whiskey in the next. Like a restaurant, Nacart separates the technical bartender from the charismatic order-taking conversationalist. The experience is unique and offers a look into the inner workings of a bar. Like a delicate dance, the technical bartenders combine and shake. While the “chef” finishes the drinks, garnishes, and serves. Extraordinarily fast, and beautifully finished.
Bildquelle: Photo via Pixabay