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Food & Drink

Everything there is to drink at Civil Pours, Canada’s first draught cocktail bar and bottle shop

It’s from the libation experts behind Civil Liberties

By Kate Dingwall| Photography by Joshua Best
Everything there is to drink at Civil Pours, Canada's first draught cocktail bar and bottle shop

At Civil Pours, a new seasonal patio and bottle shop in Bloorcourt from the folks behind Civil Liberties, fluffy espresso martinis and boozy old fashioneds aren’t born from Boston shakers or Yarai glasses—they’re pulled from taps and poured from stubbies. Craving a jalapeno margarita? There’s a tap for that too.

The main premise of Civil Pours is to concoct quality cocktails in kegged and bottled form. They’re bartender quality—a given, considering Civil Liberties’ cred—but easy to serve: just pour in a good glass, no garnish required. “The goal isn’t to replace bartenders,” says Civil Liberties owner Nick Kennedy. “It’s to allow for speedier and easier service, which gives our staff time to focus on hospitality.”

The sign at Civil Pours cocktail bar
A view of the Civil Pours patio from the street

All draught drinks are also available to bring home in bottle form, and other bars can purchase them by the keg—Civil Pours drinks are now available at Cactus Club, King Taps, the Rec Room, Third Place, Hotel X, the Fairmont Royal York and the Drake Hotel.

It may sound like a simple concept, but it’s far from it. If you were to keg a run-of-the-mill margarita, it would separate inside the container. “You basically have to shake the keg every half hour,” says Kennedy. And if you used fresh lime juice in the mix, the entire keg would expire after just 48 hours. So Kennedy and team member Madi Homewood had to tinker and tweak classic recipes, playing with ingredients and distillates to learn how to replicate quality cocktails in kegged and bottled form.

The owners of Civil Pours, a new draught cocktail bar in Toronto
Left to right: owners John Williamson, Mary Beth and Nick Kennedy
The patio at Civil Pours

The new patio is a showroom of sorts, where guests can sit down, throw back a whiskey sour and then buy some bottles to go (available in 250- and 750-millilitre sizes) for no-fuss cocktail parties at home or—given the new pilot program—in a park.

The space is technically temporary—it was Sippin’ Santa before this, and Kennedy will be opening a new Australian bar at the same location this fall—but Civil Pours’ bottled cocktails will stick around well beyond patio season.

Here’s the drink lineup
A bottled margarita at Civil Pours

It took seven months for Kennedy and Homewood to perfect the margarita’s citrus situation. Instead of using citric acid or freshly squeezed limes, they turn citrus (including some from leftover oranges used at both Civil Liberties and the bars at the Fairmont Royal York) into a distilled spirit, similar to a craft take on Curaçao or Triple Sec. “We’re trying to make the most of ingredients that aren’t often used, like spent citrus,” says Kennedy. There’s also a spicy iteration of the cocktail made with a vacuum-distilled jalapeno spirit. It’s fresh, green and slightly spicy ($16.50).

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The bottled old fashioned at Civil Pours

Sure, there’s whiskey in this old fashioned—five-year-old Canadian rye, to be precise—but also a hint of citrus distillate and a touch of wakame for salinity and depth. The result? An elegant cocktail with plenty of length and clarity ($16.50).

Civil Pours' bottled espresso martini

The trendy espresso martini calls a base of decaf coffee (“So you can have more than one,” says Kennedy) and a distillate made with cocoa beans and husks distilled at a super-low temperature to retain the flavours ($16.50). Kennedy spent time learning to distill at Empirical Spirits, a radically innovative Copenhagen-based flavour producer, so many of Civil Pours’ recipes combine bartender and distillation techniques. Currently, Civil Pours works with the Junction’s Nickel 9 Distillery, though Kennedy dreams of having his own operation one day.

The bottled whiskey sour at Civil Pours, an all-draught cocktail bar in Toronto

The whiskey sour uses five-year-old Canadian rye whiskey and a distillate made in house from leftover avocado pits. “Thousands of avocadoes come into Toronto each day, and almost every single pit gets thrown out,” says Kennedy. “The bars we sell our margarita to send us back their avocado pits. We vacuum-distill them and turn them into a spirit.” All Civil Pours drinks incorporate an element of sustainability. “We call them lost flavours. Everyone loves guacamole, but no one knows what to do with the pit.” Who knew it was just what your margarita needed? And instead of egg whites, Civil Pours uses a proprietary vegan foamer to keep its whiskey sour light and fluffy ($16.50).

A bartender pulls an espresso martini at Civil Pours

Curiosity Poured is a rotating draught tap of whatever the team is working on. Currently, that’s the Leaf and Grain, an old fashioned riff made with a toasted buckwheat distillate and rooibos tea. Up next? A manhattan and a French 75.

Curious about quirky distillates? The Curiosity Distilled highballs ($9.50) feature one of the house spirits over ice and topped up with sparkling soda. The drink offerings will rotate at the team’s whimsy, but the current selection includes a vacuumed-distilled jasmine rice highball that’s starchy yet wildly refreshing.

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For anyone abstaining, the bar offers a zero-proof highball made with whey distillate (a dairy by-product bought from local cheesemakers), musk melon and soda. It’s textured and citrus kissed. “The non-alcoholic options should rotate, though this is pretty perfect,” says Kennedy.

Civil Pours, 866 Bloor St. W., civilpours.com, @civil_pours

The patio at Civil Pours, a new bar in Toronto serving draught and bottled cocktails
Merchandise available for sale at Civil Pours cocktail bar

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