Montreal is one of those amazing cities that has an absolute wealth of choice when it comes to nightlife. There is always something new to discover, old favourites to haunt and a jazz bar on practically every block. With such a vibrant scene, there are still a number of stand out cocktail bars that absolutely tower over the competition, despite– or perhaps due to– the fact that many of them are tucked away dark alleys or hidden doorways, waiting to be discovered by the intrepid drinker.
Atwater Cocktail Club
Sharing a kitchen and an alleyway with the diner-bistro Foiegwa, Atwater Cocktail Club is an absolute delight. A bar that feels like anything goes, with a cocktail menu that is vibrant, eclectic and constantly evolving. It’s the sort of place that you could spend all night in, and given the line-up’s on a weekend, you may want to.
Opulence at its finest is the best way to describe Bar George. Nestled in a Victorian Mansion, this former gentlemen’s club-turned-boutique hotel bar still sports elaborate restored features like chandeliers, grandfather clocks, fireplaces and candelabras. It’s the sort of place you feel the need to be dressed up for.
Big in Japan Bar
Candlelit tables, check. Whiskey bottles from the ceiling, check. Film noir vibes, check. Big In Japan Bar is a dream for anyone that loves atmosphere around them as much as the cocktail in front of them. It’s the worst kept secret in Montreal, but that doesn’t take anything away from how incredibly cool it is.
The Cold Room
Head down a back alley, look for the rubber ducky by a nondescript door, buzz for entry and wait for what feels like an eternity for the bartender to bring you down to this completely hidden speakeasy. It harkens back to the days where drinkers would enter one door and leave another, being discrete as possible. The bartenders here clearly know what they are doing, whether you’re ordering from the menu or just letting them choose for you, everything is creatively made.
Finding your way into this 25 seat speakeasy is half the fun. Hidden behind a tailor and barbershop, it’s an intimate environment waiting to be discovered. Drinks are made to order, informed by the tastes of an individual, ice is made and carved in house to ensure it remains crystal clear and devoid of impurities.
Another hidden gem, this time found at the back of a small fisherman’s cabin located on Cathcart Street. Enter and you’re transported to Japan, complete with cocktails that take advantage of unique Japanese flavours like shisho leaves, sake and plum. Honestly, Montreal may have more hidden bars than any other city in North America.
Arguably the cities “OG” cocktail bar, Le Lab can be credited for launching a number of influential careers in town. The bar still draws a large crowd with its extensive and experimental cocktail list, and is home to the annual Bar Wars competition, the venue’s ongoing flair competition which is definitely a must attend.
A Victorian-era style bistro bar, Madam Bovary has something for everyone. With a menu of contemporary small dishes, a signature cocktail card and a private import wine list, this cozy design space includes a 160-seat restaurant, two bar areas, semi-private lounges and a billiard room.
No cocktail bar list is complete without at least one hotel bar, and Nacarat does not disappoint. There is simply an overwhelming amount of options here all anchored by a a 28-page menu featuring a flavour wheel that spins from spicy to sour, umami to sweet to bitter. It’s a can’t miss destination for cocktail lovers in Montreal.
Another speakeasy, this time located in the basement of the Vietnamese restaurant Hà in Old Montreal. Head downstairs to be transported to an Asian inspired tiki experience with drinks that are colourful, cool and playful.