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Food & Drink

Kitschy cocktail bars, wine-sampling salons, outdoor beer gardens and other places to have holiday fun all month long

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Toronto bakeries selling house-made panettone for the holidays
Food & Drink

Toronto bakeries selling house-made panettone for the holidays

It’s the first of December, which means that by now most of the city is gift-wrapped and gilded, kitschy and cider-scented. There are winter markets, tinsel-and-bauble-bedecked bars and campy Christmas cocktail spots—all ready to woo winter-lovers and grinches alike with hot drinks, seasonal snacks and other cozy offerings. Grab an ugly sweater, put Mariah Carey on repeat, and head to one of these spots to get into the holiday spirit(s).

Leaning fully into holiday kitsch, Project Gigglewater completely decked out their halls, gift-wrapping the walls and adorning the ceiling with a canopy of twinkling lights, tinsel and glowing ornaments. For those receiving coal this year, the “naughty” cocktails include brandy-spiked mulled wine and gingerbread negronis, while good boys and girls (of legal drinking age, that is) can sip on North Pole Spritzes and Uncle Terry’s mules. Food veers towards holiday feast—like dinner bomb croquettes (an entire turkey dinner in a crispy ball), roasted pumpkin hummus, chocolate bark and strawberry cheesecake dip. From now until December 26.

 

Kitschy cocktail bars, wine-sampling salons, outdoor beer gardens and other places to have holiday fun all month long
Photo courtesy of The Dive Shop

For when the weather outside is frightful, this east end hangout is an excellent spot to sip on something delightful. The inside space is an adult winter wonderland (lights galore, a tree made out of Jameson bottles) while the back patio channels Christmas in Hawaii, complete with sand-in-your-toes set-ups, Santa’s sleigh (filled with complimentary leis), umbrella drinks and a giant teddy bear. The drink menu includes spirited options like Jingle Juice, a Peppermintini, and something called Santa’s Day Off. From now until the end of December.

 

For all your holiday libation needs, the Grape Witches are hosting their first first Try and Buy market. Book a slot, step up to the newly-opened Grape Witches salon on the second floor of Grape Glass, and taste your way through over 30 wines with the help of your friendly neighbourhood wine experts. And, while you’re sipping, pick a few presents out for people on your list—wrapping gurus are on-site to beautify your boxes and bottles. December 11, 12, 18, 19.

 

No one does this season quite like Miracle. The Christmas-themed pop-up bar by the Civil Liberties camp doles out excellent cocktails that nail both kitsch and craft, complete with gaudy glassware and garnishes. Expect drinks like On Dasher, a fluffy gin, vanilla liqueur, marshmallow and cardamom concoction; and the Christmaspolitan, a cosmo riff calling for vodka, elderflower spiced cranberry sauce and rosemary. They’re all are shaken and stirred in a space bedecked with jingle balls, tinsel backdrops and life-sized toy bears. From now until December 26.

 

Miracle’s tropical counterpart warms things up with a beach-themed space and cocktails by Jeff Berry (the godfather of tropical tipples) and the Shameful Tiki team. Sip on Kris Kringle Coladas, gingerbread-spiked rum concoctions and holiday-themed shooters spiked with mint and chocolate liqueurs. Because it is the season for giving, $1 of every drink sold at both Miracle and Sippin’ Santa goes towards Nellie’s Shelter, an organization providing shelter, education and advocacy for women and children in need. The bar also dares drinkers to go on a Christmas crawl: those who collect coasters from Sippin’ Santa, Miracle on Bloor, Shameful Tiki, Portlight on Bloor and Civil Liberties, will be rewarded with a free drink or shot. Consider it carolling for the cocktail crowd. From now until December 26.

 

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Holiday happenings have been taking over the Fairmont Royal York for over 92 years, and this one is no different; the hotel has transformed itself into a hub for all things holiday. Festive flavours reign here, so expect drinks like Manhattans punched up with season-appropriate ingredients including nutmeg, green tea, horchata and Irish cream. A menu of non-alcoholic cocktails allows teetotallers to partake in the polar pageantry. From now until December 18.

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In the second half of December, Moet Chandon is taking over Hotel X’s cocktail space and transforming it into the ebullient-sounding Effervescence Lounge. ​Veering away from campy Christmas and leaning more towards celebrating the season, visitors can expect a menu of pairs-well-with-Champagne plates: sturgeon caviar with latkes, truffle fries, Korean fried chicken and charcuterie galore. A full lineup of bubbles is served by the glass, the bottle and—because it’s the thing to do these days—from a vending machine. It all culminates on New Year’s Eve, where musical concerts, a bubble-themed photo booth and a Champagne pyramid will wrap up the festive season Chandon-style. From December 14 to New Year’s Eve.

 

There’s a good chance you’re here for the ‘gram—bedecked with sparkling Scotch pines and tunnels of twinkling lights, the Bathurst Street space really is an excellent backdrop—but be sure to stay after you snap for a snack or two. Grab a mug of mulled wine, set up camp around one of the five outdoor fire pits and nosh on wood-fired pizza, wok-fried noodles, two kinds of poutine (holiday dinner, dessert) and caramel-filled candy cane churros. Rotating entertainment ranges from live music and carolling to high-octane DJ sets on the weekends. From now until December 26.

 

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If you’re confined to the city over the holidays, Papi Chulo’s is offering a winter-y Mexican fiesta, complete with tacos, nachos, elotes and massive towers of both regular margaritas and “mistle-toed” ones spiked with white cranberry juice. A full menu of cold-weather cocktails includes an eggnog martini, a pomegranate mojito, plus a few other kinds of margs. From now until the end of December.

 

Bar Neon has wrangled up a range of local producers to host a mini market throughout the month. Pick up presents from TOWN, Nuthouse and local artists, while the Neon team fills you with a host of holiday-themed drinks and snacks. The menu spans mulled wines, hot toddies and steaming ciders spiked with spiced rums, plus warming snacks, like whole turkey legs with cranberry-orange sauce, vegetarian poutine and pulled pork sandwiches. From now until January 2.

 

Holiday Hills at Stackt Market

This downtown market is decking the halls to the fullest extent with a month-long bash that includes live music, cover bands, karaoke, drag brunches, and Crokicurl (that’s a hybrid of crokinole and curling played on an outdoor rink, ICYMI). Beers are poured by Belgian Moon and the famished will be fed by Ration Food Lab and New Pie Co. (both of whom are hosting pasta- and pie-making workshops). Once you’ve sipped a beer or two to get the creative juices flowing, take part in a wreath-making workshops or a DIY ugly Christmas sweater contest. From now until the end of December.

 

The Distillery District’s annual holiday blowout needs little introduction—the postcard-perfect outdoor market is a staple every season. This year’s vendors specialize in gooey Swiss raclette, mini doughnuts, crispy schnitzel, steaming pretzels and spicy patatas bravas. All are best washed down with provisions from the Naughty or Nice Bar, Cluny’s lit-up tunnel bar, the Tree Lot Bar or Archeo’s mixology bar. From now until December 31.

 

Kitschy cocktail bars, wine-sampling salons, outdoor beer gardens and other places to have holiday fun all month long
Photo courtesy of Patron

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Patron X Yorkville

This season, Patron is camping out on a Yorkville strip to provide complimentary gift wrapping and Christmas-y cocktails to stressed-out shoppers. While you’re waiting for your wrapping, stock up on the tequila brand’s cocktail kits, crafted in part by ēst chef Sean MacDonald. Each one includes everything you need to make a winter margarita, Reposado hot chocolate, and a smoked old fashioned (complete with smoking gun). December 3 and 4, 9 through 12.

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