TIFF 2012 Insider’s Guide: top 10 spots for boozing and schmoozing with stars

TIFF 2012 Insider’s Guide: top 10 spots for boozing and schmoozing with stars

TIFF 2012 Insider’s Guide: where to party

TIFF can be the most exhausting event of the year—10 days of near constant drinking, schmoozing and stargazing, all, ostensibly, in the name of movies. Choosing the best parties requires insider intelligence and expert planning. Here, a highly discerning look at the festival’s hottest hot spots.

(Image: George Pimentel) 


181 Wellington St. W., 416-585-2500
The Ritz-Carlton opened just in time for last year’s festival, and it’s already a TIFF mainstay. This month, it will be booked solid with A-listers and their hangers-on—Clooney stays upstairs when he’s in town, as do Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Madonna. The Ritz isn’t about raucous parties as much as languid pre-dinner drinks. Hang out at Toca Bar or on the patio at Deq and try to blend in.

What to order: The appropriately cinematic Mary Pickford: Bacardi, maraschino liqueur, pineapple juice and pomegranate grenadine. $12.

Thompson Hotel
(Image: George Pimentel) 

Thompson Hotel

550 Wellington St. W., 416-640-7778
The Thompson is at its best during TIFF—especially when its guests aren’t at theirs. At last year’s Vanity Fair party at Scarpetta, a rightly sauced Shia LaBeouf made repeated awkward passes at Elizabeth Olsen. Upstairs at the Calvin Klein party, Selma Blair danced on the rooftop, utterly eclipsing the city’s loveliest view.

What to order: The strong and refreshing mojito, a house specialty. $15.


461 King St. W., 416-598-4730
With its high ceilings, thumping house music and roaming bar cart, Brassaii is built for parties—and anything goes. Two years ago, Zach Galifianakis downed beers and smoked pot on the patio with his pals. James Caan, a regular, once told GM Vincenzo Antonacci, “If the cocktail waitresses were on the menu, I’d keep buying.” Hometown boy Keanu Reeves had a wild night here, too, catching a pair of panties from a crazed fan, who had scrawled her number on the fabric.

What to order: In the spirit of TIFF parties, there’s the fabulous Hot Mess: Avion tequila, raspberries, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup and chili pepper. $14.

Soho House

192 Adelaide St. W.
Last year, the Soho House pop-up was the talk of TIFF. Now the famous club has a permanent Toronto address on Adelaide, but it’s near impossible to get in (make friends with a member). If you do, it’s a playground of pure indulgence: piles of finger food, free-flowing vodka and indoor smoking (popular last year with bad-boy celebrities Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Gerard Butler and Shia LaBeouf).

What to order: Emily Blunt, Olivia Wilde and Evan Rachel Wood swear by the signature Le Fizz, a mix of elderflower cordial, lime juice and Grey Goose.

Park Hyatt Roof Lounge

4 Avenue Rd., 416-925-1234
Now that Bistro 990, the Sutton Place and the original Four Seasons are gone, the Hyatt is the last of the old guard of Hollywood North romance. Whether for business or pleasure, the place to be is 18 floors up. Ralph Fiennes and Harvey Weinstein knocked back cocktails here last year (they were talking Coriolanus), and Colin Firth has been known to close the place well after last call.

What to order: The Park Hyatt is famous for its martinis. $16–$24.

Spoke Club
(Image: George Pimentel) 

Spoke Club

600 King St. W., 416-368-8448
The club is a playground for media types year-round—festival director Cameron Bailey belongs, and he often entertains visi­ting filmmakers—but during TIFF, staid exclusivity gives way to full-on eccentricity. Clive Owen hits the rooftop bar and orders his favourite gin and lemon grass martini dyed red in honour of his beloved Liverpool FC. Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson once subjected amused onlookers to a break-dancing duel. And to guarantee some star power this year, the Spoke will host the highly anticipated pop-up party Nikki Beach.

What to order: The Spoke makes a mean manhattan three ways. Opt for the classic: Woodford Reserve bourbon, vermouth, Italian Amaro, bitters. $14.

Maison Mercer

15 Mercer St., 416-341-8777
Maison Mercer’s rooftop during TIFF is like a Bel-Air garden party—chockablock with suited industry players and well-stocked cabanas. Maybe it’s because it feels like home, or maybe it’s just the booze, but publicists seem to let their stars off-leash a little. Last year Yvonne Strahovski got seriously intimate with her boyfriend, Tim Loden, in a stark white stairwell just around the corner from the public washrooms.

What to order: Bottle service, starting at around $200. Bring friends.

Johnny Rotten at The Hoxton. (Image: Geoffrey Knott/Bad Day Magazine)
Johnny Rotten at The Hoxton. (Image: Geoffrey Knott/Bad Day Magazine) 

The Hoxton

69 Bathurst St., 416-519-6784
The music is loud, the bourbon is plentiful, and everyone is encouraged to get down. At last year’s TIFF, Johnny Rotten was caught dancing to Madonna, as were zombie porn director Bruce LaBruce, and actors Zoe Kravitz and Michael Fassbender. James Franco just hung out in a corner with Gus Van Sant.

What to order: The bourbon sour is easy to order and arrives quickly. $7.50.

Drake Hotel

1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042
The Drake hosts several big TIFF events, most of them on its rooftop patio, the Sky Yard. It’s always a favourite with visiting celebrities. Jay Baruchel and Seann William Scott headed there after the premiere of Goon last year. Juliette Lewis drank French 75s while in town filming The Firm, and both Glee’s Mark Salling and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie Day stopped in while they were visiting, too.

What to order: The Drake negroni, a cool, simple mix of gin, vermouth and Campari. $14.


350 King St. W., 416-364-1211
The Lightbox is the CPU of the festival. For those with an hour or two between screenings, the Canteen and Luma are convenient places to stop in for a drink. For the professional partygoer, however, the place to be is Malaparte. It’s billed as an event venue, open year-round for such star-studded dos as the recent Cosmopolis premiere (attended by Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, David Cronenberg and Paul Giamatti). But at TIFF, it’s where you’ll find some of the most exclusive festival gatherings. Every celebrity with a film this year will make his or her way through these doors, and while the parties may not all be public, they’re definitely the ones to crash.

What to order: As is the norm at insider-y parties, the champagne is bound to be free and flowing.