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Food & Drink

A look inside Le Tigre, Rosedale’s new all-pink martini bar

It’s from the team behind Cry Baby Gallery

By Kate Dingwall| Photography by Rick O'Brien
A look inside Le Tigre, Rosedale’s new all-pink martini bar

Slip out of Rosedale station and look north up Yonge for a pink light glowing from a second-floor window. Under an awning and up a flight of steps is Le Tigre, a new Barbie-pink martini bar from the guys behind Cry Baby, Dundas West’s cocktail bar and art gallery.

While Rosedale has plenty of fine-dining destinations and a good pub or two, the team thought that the area was missing a great martini bar—a local watering hole for the well-heeled crowd. “The neighbourhood was really under-serviced when it came to cocktail destinations,” says co-owner Robert Granicolo. So they opened a sultry little lounge on the second floor of a piano shop.

The entrance to Le Tigre, a martini bar in Toronto's Rosedale neighbourhood
The stairs that lead to Le Tigre, a cocktail bar in Toronto
At the entrance of Le Tigre, guests are greeted by a massive black-and-gold mural by Mony Zakhour, the gallery director for Cry Baby's art gallery
At the entrance, guests are greeted by a massive black-and-gold mural by Mony Zakhour, the gallery director for Cry Baby’s art gallery. It’s the only thing in the space that’s not pink

The vibe is different at both bars. While Little Portugal’s Cry Baby is covert, cool and curated for the downtown crowd, Le Tigre is lounge-y, lush and enticingly louche, with hot-pink lighting, palm-frond wallpaper and a menu of sneakily sultry drinks with names like Ashley Madison, Tiger Style and Basic Instinct.

The primary palette is pink, pink and more pink, with borderline-psychedelic LEDs casting a rosy glow over the entire space. Design cues skew retro—think ‘80s Miami meets Sex and the City‘s Manhattan. “There’s a lot of Rick James and French electro on the playlist,” says Granicolo.

All-pink everything at Le Tigre, a martini bar in Rosedale from the team behind Toronto's Cry Baby Gallery
Le Tigre, an all-pink martini bar and cocktail lounge in Toronto's Rosedale neighbourhood

At the centre of Le Tigre’s main room, which is packed with petite bistro tables, is a massive bar covered in slabs of pink quartz. “The design was definitely inspired by bars in Mayfair, London,” says Granicolo. “I drank a lot of £25 cocktails the last time I was there, and I’m really inspired by their design.” A smaller back room is filled with low tables and couches, and there are plenty of nooks for quiet conversation.

Throughout the bar, there are quirky tiger-related touches—a ceramic statue of a large cat here, a tiger painting there. “Essentially, we wanted it to be a bit like an adult Rainforest Cafe—without the animatronics and with far better drinks,” says Granicolo.

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The smaller back room at Le Tigre, a martini bar in Toronto, Ontario
Potted plants at Le Tigre, an all-pink martini bar in Toronto

The tongue-in-cheek cocktails are designed to be sexy in name and presentation but serious in flavour. “We used Gourmet magazines from the ‘80s for inspiration,” says Granicolo. The aforementioned Ashley Madison is a watermelon-and-blood-orange mai tai spiked with gin, sake and horchata and topped with a bouquet of mint.

For deeper-pocketed clientele, there are reserve cocktails, pricier sips made with top-shelf ingredients. There’s an old fashioned that emphasizes Michter’s 10-year-old Kentucky bourbon and a Robbie Burns riff that highlights Dalmore 15.

The Ashley Madison cocktail at Le Tigre, a new all-pink martini bar in Toronto, Ontario
Behold: the Ashley Madison.

 

The Collect Call, a milk punch cocktail at Le Tigre, a bar in Rosedale, Toronto
Collect Call, a milk punch by way of the southern hemisphere, is a blend of pisco, absinthe and vodka balanced out with pandan, orange and passionfruit. The combo is milk-washed—a process of adding milk to a spirit, freezing it and removing the curds—until it’s crystal clear

 

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The Señor Spielbergo, an agave old fashioned, at Le Tigre, a Toronto cocktail bar
The Señor Spielbergo is an agave old fashioned amped up with Calabrian amaro, white miso and crème de cacao

 

The Dirty, a take on the dirty martini, at Le Tigre in Toronto
The Dirty is made with very cold Ketel One vodka, vermouth and a house brine blend. On the side: a bowl of garnishes

But we’re here for the martinis, which are all served with a side of showmanship and trotted out extra icy on a silver tray alongside a selection of garnishes. Guests can order the classics, but it’s more fun to trust the team and get one of the six house recipes. There are twists on the Vesper and the dirty martini, but there are also more unique concoctions. The bar’s riff on the Alaska—a pre-Prohibition cocktail first mentioned in the Savoy Cocktail Book, Harry Craddock’s tipple tome from 1930—is made with Tanqueray 10, yellow chartreuse, white vermouth and crème de cacao. And the Lychee is an updated take on the ‘80s staple made with Casamigos Blanco, Calvados, Giffard’s Lichi-Li lychee liqueur and lychee-infused agave.

Is it an excellent first-date spot? Indubitably. Would it be wise to talk business over an Ashley Madison cocktail? Maybe not. But there’s a time and a place for everything.

Le Tigre, 1060 Yonge St., second floor, letigrebar.ca, @letigre.bar

A bartender mixes up a drink at Le Tigre, a new Toronto cocktail bar
A painting of tiger at Le Tigre, a Toronto martini bar
Two martinis on a table at Le Tigre, a cocktail bar in Toronto

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