Since North 53 opened, its cocktails have shone due to their consistency and flavour. Truth be told, if this category had existed prior to this year, there’s no doubt that you would have found the establishment on this list. While the food is delicious, North 53 features a late-night atmosphere that is inviting, and encourages patrons to sit at the restaurant-length bar and watch as bartenders craft their signature cocktails.
The cocktails themselves are experimental and often changed out with the season, offering new experiences with every visit. But, one staple, and go-to for many, is the Smoke & Oak Fashioned, the establishment’s take on the classic. Though the idea of a smoked old-fashioned isn’t new to all, the idea that this one is crafted with an oaken gin and maple syrup certainly sets it apart. But, if you’re new to the joint, get the proper welcome with the Welcome to the Neighborhood – a cocktail that eschews the use of ice in favour of room temperature water, added to activate the deep flavours of its Rittenhouse rye, Dolin dry, Strega, Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927 and bitters. With a welcome like that, you’ll likely consider moving in. –Cory Haller
Bar Clementine is the new 36-seat venue from Evan Watson, Andrew Borley and Jordan Clemens of the Volstead Act – a cocktail pop-up that crafts high-end libations. Bar Clementine has only been open since September 2016, but it’s already secured a spot in our cocktail category. Its mastery of cocktails is manifested on its menu, which features an assortment of carefully-selected ingredients such as matcha, masala chai, cacao, kafir lime and coriander in 10 cocktails. I recommend the Cabana, a northern take on a tiki drink, featuring Barbados rum, Ardbeg 10, coconut, banana, lime, ginger, coriander and Pedro Ximenez. You’ll be wanting a tropical vacay after the first sip. –Jasmine Salazar
Have Mercy feels like a true Southern dive bar, so, when perusing the cocktail menu, a bourbon-based libation feels the most appropriate – and none of the options disappoint. While the foolproof mixtures of bourbon, citrus, syrup and bitters may seem simple, each element is high quality, and the syrups are carefully prepared in house. Keep it local with the Strathcona Sour – the blackberry punch and clove syrup add a little something extra to an already timeless drink. If you’re looking for something more traditional, the Mint Julep is a southern classic. –Adrianna Szenthe