Since the Prohibition era—and arguably, earlier—Montreal has been a hotspot for drinking, dancing, and all the revelry that comes along with it. So it’s not surprising that the city’s bars and restaurants know how to mix a mean cocktail and curate stellar beer and wine lists. Meet some of the city’s best places for a drink: some are watering holes, some hybrid “resto-bars”, in local parlance, and some are restaurants with lounge-like atmospheres—but all of them serve exceedingly good vibes.
Marcus (Downtown/Golden Square Mile)
Famed Swedish-American chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Montreal outpost is renowned for decadent seafood dishes, infused with Japanese flavors. But Marcus, set in the Four Seasons Hotel, also features an excellent bar: a short list of imaginative cocktails, such as a cardamom-laced espresso martini, and an intriguing bourbon-tea-maple concoction, set it apart. The ace wine list includes natural choices, to be enjoyed in a glitzy, Art Déco-inspired setting, or on an elegant third-floor terrasse looking over the city.
Restaurant Gon Bui (Laval)
Gon Bui means “cheers” in Cantonese, so it’s little surprise that this part-restaurant, part-bar, is a great place for a 5 à 7—Quebec’s version of happy hour. The interior sets the scene, with Chinese market-inspired décor, a far cry from the ultra-suburban architecture of Laval, where it’s located. Cocktails with some southeast and east Asian twists feature on the menu: expect flavors such as yuzu, pandan, and ginseng to pop up in cocktails. If you’re hungry, there’s a tidy menu that fuses Chinese and Canadian flavors, resulting in plates like char siu ribs.
Modavie (Old Montreal)
Part-bistro, part-jazz bar, and all class, Modavie is a relaxed alternative within Old Montreal’s sometimes raucous bar scene. Officially, it’s a wine bar, with plenty of Old World representation: the bottles are all privately imported, meaning it’s wine you can’t typically find in Quebec’s stores. There’s a short cocktail selection and beers from a local brewer, too. The deal is sealed with local jazz and blues musicians providing an incredible brass- and sax-laden soundtrack, seven nights a week.
Nelli Café Vin Nature (Old Montreal)
A café by day and natural wine bar by night, Nelli is a stylish spot to stop by at almost any hour. Its plant-lined interior shows off the building’s heritage brick façade, creating an ambiance that’s in tune with the historic Old Montreal streets. As the name suggests, playful natural wines are a focal point here, but there’s a robust cocktail program too, with crafty remixes on classic beverages such as sours and negronis. If hunger strikes, there are some light bites, but the bar is part of Hotel Nelligan, so the adjacent Nelli Bistro is an option for a larger meal.
At the heart of the buzzy Plateau, you’ll find Montreal’s first all-vegan pub. It’s a casual, low-key spot for an affordable drink, with plenty of beers on tap, from big labels to Quebec craft breweries. There are also classic cocktails such as gimlets and Aperol spritzes, plus a small wine and sangria selection. The vegan element dazzles on the food side: there are faux chicken tenders and wings, poutine, loaded fries, burgers, and mac and cheese, all prepared sans meat. In warmer months, there’s also a deck out on St-Laurent, which is great for people-watching.
L’Idéal Bar & Contenus (Downtown/Quartier des Spectacles)
L’Idéal is a café, wine bar and podcast studio—a novel hybrid business model. Podcasts are sometimes recorded in front of a live audience, but there’s a separate room for that, if it’s not your thing. Regardless of where you sit, you’ll be treated to a stellar wine list, courtesy of sommeliers Frédérique-Anne Brosseau and Sydney Auger, with a focus on natural choices; a small yet creative range of cocktails and an array of craft beers fill out the list. The space is spectacularly designed with a mix of marble, leather, and wood: you’ll want to stay a while, and a delectable small plates menu helps you do just that.
This spot in Montreal’s southwest is one of the most creative Indian restaurants in town—but it’s also a great place for a cocktail, as hinted by an energetic house and hip-hop soundtrack. The menu leans into fruity and spicy flavors, from lychee to chai — the star player is the mango mojito. You can snack on crispy onion bhaji and an Indian-style salmon tartare, or splurge for a full meal. The vibe is fun, too: Rasoi’s eclectic decor mixes textures such as natural wood to brick, and includes eye-catching décor, inspired by Hindu symbolism.
Tucked in the lobby of the Fairmont-Queen Elizabeth, Nacarat is far from your average hotel bar. The bar’s glitzy space hints at a contemporary spin on glam rock, but the even-bigger star here is the cocktail program. With a cocktail menu arranged by flavor profile, there’s serious attention to detail here: Nacarat’s mixologists play around with elderflower and cherry-based liqueurs, and lean towards top-shelf spirits to make sure the drinks are impeccable. In the summer, there’s also a third-floor terrasse with views over downtown Montreal.
The Coldroom (Old Montreal)
Though it’s been in business since 2016, The Coldroom is still one of Montreal’s hottest drinking dens. The pitch-perfect cocktail program is a key reason for that: the bar’s knowledgeable team serves up a rotating selection of house inventions, bringing in fresh produce or house-made shrubs for truly unique drinks. The venue is also particularly cool—no pun intended: it’s a former refrigeration chamber tucked beneath the streets of Old Montreal, with a cozy, cavernous vibe. You have to ring a discreet doorbell to get in and go early, because it often gets busy.
Taverne Cobra (Little Italy)
This bustling spot in Little Italy is an 1980s-inspired dive, and the throwback vibes are strong. Decked out in vintage Americana, Cobra takes a no-nonsense approach to a night out, with affordable beers that flow freely, and a small set of boozy cocktails such as the Cheech & Chong, mixing tequila, beer, triple sec, and lime juice. From time to time, there are also themed karaoke nights.
BEVO Bar + Pizzeria (Old Montreal)
This vibrant haunt for pizza and drinks lies just a block from Montreal’s Old Port. It’s a firmly Italian affair: the drinks list has an array of Italian-accented options made with limoncello, prosecco, vermouth, and more; wine drinkers can dig into a predominantly Italian list, and there’s Italian lager for those craving something wheaty. With two floors, Bevo caters to groups, and it’s a charming ambiance, with exposed stone walls in an Old Montreal heritage building. As the name implies, pizza stars on the menu, along with a few pasta dishes.
Brasserie Harricana (Villeray)
As part of a new microbrewery wave in Montreal, Harricana is a destination for top-quality craft beer. Its brewers dabble in a wide range of styles, from classic German and Czech beers to sour I.P.A.s and lesser-known options, such as a spicy coriander-and-caraway flavored Gose. It’s more stylish than your average brewpub, too: the interiors have a soft pink-peach hue, and sophisticated wood accents. Non-beer drinkers can opt for cider or a small cocktail selection; there’s also a well-crafted food menu that dips into both bar classics and lighter fare, including salads and falafel.
Tim Forster is the former editor of restaurant news site Eater Montreal, and is now a freelance journalist and editor covering food, tech, culture and more.
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