Imbibe at home with these cocktail kits and bottle service.

You’d think Dan Dalima’s smile might be a little dimmer as he opens up shop on a recent Wednesday afternoon. The owner of Grenadier Brewery got the lease to the 2,000 square feet at 512 Queen Street, across the street from Graffiti Alley, in February. By the time he was ready to open Bar Karma, he couldn’t. 

After spending a month or so presumably crying into his pillow, he decided to take advantage of the new liquor laws and sell beer and bottles through a sidewalk window that’s become the coolest bar in pandemical Toronto.

“We wanted to do it as exposure, so when we can open again, we’re not, you know, one of a million,” says Dalima, who also owns an entertainment security company. “We’re trying to keep it as Queen West as possible. We ran security on Queen for years, everything from deep east to deep west like the Great Hall and farther down, so we’re pretty ingrained with Queen West tradition.”

Bar-Karma-exterior
Bar Karma keeps the party going on Queen West with a sidewalk window

Party on Queen

Sidle up to the bar around 6 p.m. or so (they’re open 3–11 p.m. 7 days a week), and you’ll hear a mix of Latin, EDM, top 40, hip hop, and 80s and 90s remixes while you order your Grenadier or other bottles from their fully stocked bar. 

Dalima says people are being pretty good about social distancing, but that hasn’t stopped them from congregating, giving the sidewalk in front of Bar Karma, along with the patch in front of Scarlett across the street, who have a DJ and gelato bar in addition to their own bottle service, a sort of loose street party vibe. 

But even if Queen West isn’t on your itinerary, there are plenty of places to get bibulous in pretty much any way that suits you. (Bar Karma does deliver too though, as long as it’s in a can.)

Cocktails
Build your own cocktail at home with these cocktail kits

Cocktail kits

Beer (and a little cider)

Drinks-neon-sign
Bottle service—directly to your door

Bottle service 

Other cool stuff

Drom Taberna, 458 Bloor St. W.

Stocked with bottles of eau de vie and cool wines from the Baltic to the Balkans and into Georgia, some from the LCBO, but much privately imported.

Lim Ga Ne, 686 Bloor St. W. (no website)

I had to call seven places before finding a place that sold makjeolli, a rustic version of the more popular soju, a milky rice drink that’s usually less than 10% alcohol and is a perfect accompaniment for bokjal (pork hock).

Kayagum, 5460 Yonge St.

Oddly, not a lot of the spots in what should be called Little Seoul, along Yonge from Finch north past Steeles, had makjeolli either. This place did, though it doesn’t deliver.

Pearl, 207 Queens Quay W., inside Queens Quay Terminal, 2nd floor 

Lai Wah Heen is the usual go-to spot for high-end Chinese fare, but those in the know head down to the lake for the views, the excellent plating and the baiju, the clear spirit that comes in dozens of varieties, depending on the purity, number of distillations it goes through, etc. Pearl has two, er guo tuo ($90 for 500ml) and Maotai ($240 for 500ml). Pickup only.

Gear

  • Cocktail Emporium, 972 Queen St. W. (free delivery over $100; Kensington Market and Union Station locations temporarily closed)
  • Nikolau Restaurant Equipment, 629 Queen St. W. (no website)
  • Nella Cucina, 876 Bathurst St. and 1255 Fewster Dr., Mississauga
  • William Ashley, 131 Bloor St. W.