A Whisky Lover’s Guide to Montreal

Canada's whisky scene is on the rise, and these Montreal bars are out to prove our northern neighbor's delicious distillates deserve your deference.
Inside the whisky promised land at Atwater Cocktail Club / Photo by MatDeRome

Canada’s second-largest city is home to a thriving food and drink scene, and that includes plenty of whiskey, or “whisky,” as it’s spelled here.

Although Montreal loves its Scotch, Japanese whisky and American Bourbon, curious visitors can find plenty of exclusive Canadian whiskies to sip. Ready to discover why Canada just may be the next big name in whisky? Visit these bars and sample a wide range of bottlings, which include old and rare varieties that can’t be found in America.

From whiskey-centric taverns to hopping hot spots with excellent cocktails, here are eight places to enjoy le whisky in Montreal.

Behind the curtain at Atwater Cocktail Club / Photo by MatDeRome
Behind the curtain at Atwater Cocktail Club / Photo by MatDeRome

Atwater Cocktail Club

A few doors down from the popular Foiegwa diner in Montreal’s St. Henri neighborhood, an obscure alleyway leads to this sleek spot. Look for playful cocktails like The Dandy, a triple-threat whiskey drink made with Sortilège Prestige (a Canadian maple syrup whisky), Bourbon and Scotch, along with coffee syrup and Angostura bitters.

Whisky defying gravity at Big In Japan / Photo by LaFond
Whisky defying gravity at Big In Japan / Photo by LaFond

Big In Japan

Modeled after a Japanese-style speakeasy, this serene, hidden sanctuary is a prime spot for those who love Japanese or Scotch whisky, as well as cocktails. Wine Enthusiast Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa once described its Old Fashioned as “life-changing.” Whisky lovers can even purchase a bottle and leave it at the bar, where it will be kept for private pours.

Whisky is a rare thing indeed on the third floor of The Burgundy Lion / Photo by Paul Desbaillets
Whisky is a rare thing indeed on the third floor of The Burgundy Lion / Photo by Paul Desbaillets

The Burgundy Lion

This English-style pub offers comfort food and European soccer matches on its big-screens. But the real draw is one of the most comprehensive whisky menus in the city, which includes a deep list of Canadian bottlings. Bypass the raucous ground floor and ascend to the clubby third-floor space for a private whisky-tasting experience (reservations recommended). Pro move: Across the street, lauded restaurant Joe Beef is perfect for a pre- or post-drinks meal, just make sure to book a table well in advance.

Style meets substance at The Cloakroom / Photo by Winlee Tran
Style meets substance at The Cloakroom / Photo by Winlee Tran

The Cloakroom

Hidden next to a tailored menswear store, this intimate, speakeasy-style space has no cocktail menu. Tell one of the suave bartenders what you enjoy, and they’ll devise something customized to your tastes on the spot. Or, if a straight pour is what you desire, just point to any of the well-curated collection of whiskies on the shelves.

Everything & More About Japanese Whisky

The Coldroom

Kevin Demers, who also runs Cuba-themed rum spot El Pequeño, opened this unmarked bar beneath the William Gray Hotel in 2016. The spirits list includes a number of Canadian whiskies unavailable in the U.S., but cocktails are the real draw. Try the Japanese Crane, a whiskey sour-style drink made with Japanese whisky, plum wine and lime.

Swing by L'ile Noire for the Monday night dance scene
Swing by L’ile Noire for the Monday night dance scene

L’ile Noire Pub

Just north of charming Old Montreal, this whisky bar boasts more than 450 bottlings, with a special emphasis on Scotch, as well as 150-plus gins. Live music and swing dancing is also part of the scene on Monday nights.

Nacarat

Located within the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, this glossy, spacious venue has a substantial spirits list. Whisky takes special prominence here, with many solid Canadian options highlighted. Also, notable is Nacarat’s cocktail menu, which is organized by flavor (bitter, sour, spicy, sweet) rather than by spirit.

Highbrow-casual drinking at the Whisky Café / Photo by Gaëlle Vuillaume
Highbrow-casual drinking at the Whisky Café / Photo by Gaëlle Vuillaume

Whisky Café

Located in Mile End, this beloved, Scotch-focused whiskey bar is noted for its cigar lounge, one of the few in the city. It also sports cozy leather seats, an outdoor terrace, and, as the name suggests, an outstanding whisky list. Look for the more than 150 Scotch whiskies available.

Published on October 22, 2018
Topics: Travel
About the Author
Kara Newman 
Spirits Editor

Kara Newman reviews spirits and writes about spirits and cocktail trends for Wine Enthusiast. She's the author of several cocktail books, including Shake.Stir.Sip. and NIGHTCAP: More than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening, which debuts in September 2018. Email: spirits@wineenthusiast.net




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