12 Trinity St.
Toronto, ON M5A 3C4
websiteThe historic distillery district in east downtown Toronto is a creative, beautiful place with the nice brick lined streets and old-school buildings. Despite this, there’s only one distillery open and functioning there today. That would be York Distillery, a sleek and prominent bar with a special focus on gin, vodka and bourbon drinks and a massive variety of accouterments to match them. This is a really special experience, and one that draws tourists in for a curious try of some local-made spirits.
The menu revolves mainly around three spirits, gin, vodka and bourbon, and these can be served neat or in one of dozens of cocktails or tonics. No food. Some of the cocktails I tried:
- Spirits: A note on the primary spirits here, which are sold by the bottle or can be mixed into cocktails on-site. You can sample each of them in a flight, which is a nice sampling. There’s a bite to be sure! But what works for them so well is the mild flavor that keeps them good in cocktails with even slight flavor, like citrus. I’d argue it’s better to sample these in drinks, as opposed to plain, to appreciate what they bring.
- Vesper Martini: 60 ml Spirit of York Gin; 20 ml Spirit of York Vodka; 10 ml Lillet Blanc; Garnish with a lemon zest. As the distillery notes, “the way Bond likes it,” and yes, shaken, not stirred. A nice balance.
- Aviation: This gin-based drink has a light, almost sweet citrus aroma to it, and like the martini it’s all lemon at the end.
The distillery is an easygoing kind of place, with visitors filing in and out to take a look at the stills and other equipment. Yes, you can watch the process here of watching these great spirits created. It’s a definite worthwhile experience just to walk in here; Toronto’s distillery district is otherwise filled with bars and high-end retail stores but there’s just one actual place to watch the process.
All in all, kind of a nice, easy experience for a tourist to try in the city, and if you’re someone who lives here, it’s a place to buy a local bottle, too. It’s really a neat little experience to be sure.
- A good tourist stop, because you can come here and sample spirits without spending too much time here. There’s no food and the shop closes relatively early.
- The cocktail menu is small but very good, and there are plenty of tonics to customize a cocktail.
- Pick up a bottle if you like these spirits.