Event planners are booking these “secret” sophisticated venues for corporate get-togethers, fundraisers, cocktail parties and press conferences.
One of the worst-kept secrets in Toronto’s cocktail scene is that hidden bars and “secret” speakeasies can be found in the back rooms of barber shops, restaurants and even yogurt stores.
Cloak Bar, 488 Wellington Street West
Mystery and intrigue are part of the experience, even before you enter the premises. For example, the entrance to the Cloak Bar is hidden behind an unassuming door just next to Marben restaurant in Toronto’s Entertainment District. All you need to do is call the phone number posted on the door, and a host will escort guests through a dingy passageway and behind a heavy curtain to the Prohibition-style, James Bond–esque speakeasy where creatively crafted cocktails are served.
People love the bragging rights that come with discovering secret speakeasies. When they tell others about their unique experience, “they like to feel that they’re in the know,” explains Karen Davidson, general manager for Marben restaurant and the Cloak Bar where clients have hosted everything from book and product launches to office parties.
Some planners have even brought burlesque performers, magicians, an expert cigar roller, DJs and small bands into the venue, which can accommodate 55 people comfortably and up to 70 guests for more of a nightclub experience.
Catering is provided by Marben, which sources heavily from Ontario farms and producers. While Cloak Bar mixologists are happy to create custom cocktails to mark special occasions, it seems fitting that one of the more popular drinks served is called Hidden in Plain Sight (Cachaça, Rum, white port, tonka bean, Sunset in Niagara Tea, lemon and sugar). Another favourite is Honey Bourbon Betty, a sweet and sour concoction featuring bourbon, hazelnut liqueur, lemon, honey and egg white.
Gift Shop, 89 Ossington Avenue
A working barbershop in Toronto’s hip Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood fronts the Gift Shop—an intriguing cocktail den and lounge where guests are greeted by a mysterious barman known only as “H.” This eclectic yet comfortable space is available for private and event bookings.
AfterSeven, 10 Stephanie Street
You’ll find the AfterSeven Japanese cocktail bar hidden behind Kome Yogurt in the Kensington-Chinatown neighbourhood. Upon entering the yogurt shop, tell the barista that you’d like to order a “#8 on the menu,” then head over to the “vending machine,” which is actually the entrance to AfterSeven. Enjoy the minimalist decor while sipping on signature cocktails, such as the Madame Seven (jasmine-infused gin, bourbon whisky and elderflower), or let one of the mixologists guide your group through the drinks menu for a curated taste experience.
A Toi, 214 King Street West
If you drop by the Coffee Oysters Champagne restaurant on King St. West and ask to visit the champagne room (wink), you’ll be escorted to a chic Parisian-style bar named A Toi. The backstory only adds to the mysterious vibe: The boutique Hotel à Toi was built in the 1920s by French millionaire Antoine Mercier in honour of his beautiful wife, Isabel. Indulge in an extensive cocktail list that includes the Brandy Daisy (Hennessy VS Cognac, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, soda and mint) as well as non-alcoholic concoctions, Champagne shooters and caviar bumps.
XXX, 102 Portland Street
Look for the bright red XXX neon sign just to the right of Little Sister Portland restaurant’s main entrance to discover XXX bar in the Fashion District. While Little Sister is known for its Dutch-Indo fare, XXX pairs its high-end cocktail experience with a 1990s hip-hop, new disco vibe. Accommodating up to 20 guests, XXX can be bought out for exclusive private functions and VIP events.