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Sip Back in Time: Library Bar, Toronto’s Gateway to 1920s Glamour

Sip Back in Time: Library Bar, Toronto’s Gateway to 1920s Glamour

Located inside the glamorous Fairmont Royal York, Library Bar is a cocktail lounge so high society that it whisks you back to the Roaring 20s.

“In history, the first things people have shared have been food, drinks and stories.” Etched into the first page of Library Bar’s storybook-like menu, it’s the opener to a collection of artisanal cocktails tailored for those who seek an experience in any city they find themselves in. Located inside the glamorous Fairmont Royal York, Library Bar is as much a fixture of the city as the renowned hotel itself. Its rich history dates back to 1929, when this iconic Canadian hotel first opened its doors in Toronto.

From happy hours to night caps, if you sit here long enough, you’ll notice a revolving cast of characters—couples on date nights, financiers, sports enthusiasts, and some out of towners. Clad in bespoke suits and dazzling jewelry, patrons alike have one thing in common: they seek the familiarity of a hometown bar, but with the refined service and premium offerings expected from a luxurious establishment. Just as much, the staff here seem to be fixtures of the institution, often recounting anecdotes from its storied history and the many tales beneath the bar’s walls.

The Ambiance

The Art-Deco establishment is a tribute to the Roaring 20s, adorned with sumptuous deep velvets, opulent textures, and regal accents. Its dimly lit interior exudes a moody yet romantic allure, reminiscent of a bygone high-society tea party. Shelves adorned with Canadian literature and trinkets evoke the cozy charm of a rustic living room.

Centering the room is a striking oil painting of George H. Locke, better known as the man behind making Toronto’s library system one of the most revered institutions in North America today. As the first chief librarian of the metropolis, he hand-selected every book when the Royal York opened its doors in 1929. Today, the aptly named bar is still artfully lined with those very books.

The Cocktails

Mixologist James Grant takes inspiration from literary and film classics to create a standout cocktail experience for guests. His menu, characteristically written like sections of a novel, features poetry and prose from the likes of Virginia Woolf and Neil Gaiman. Thumb through chapters like Folklore, Poetry, and Science Fiction, each complete with provocative concoctions under each theme.

Inspired by the greats, the ‘Masterpieces’ section of the menu audaciously features cocktails ranging from $85 to $125 CAD with ingredients like caviar and prosciutto. The Master & Commander is a $125 libation, with a price tag justified by its top-tier liquor, including Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch Whisky.

Master & Commander (Left), Southern Reach (Right)

Drinks offer a sensory experience, where you’ll stumble on mixtures that glow, crunch, and emit smoke. For spicy margarita enthusiasts, the Wild 400 is your drink. The velvety smooth cocktail fuses tequila and mezcal with the added touch of ginger, chai, and apricot and is sealed with a Tajin rim, making it fruit-forward yet spicy.

Renowned for creating Toronto’s finest martini, you can’t go wrong ordering the BirdBath Martini, Library Bar’s trademark drink made with your choice of QUILL vodka or gin, both meticulously crafted in-house with botanicals. Expect a well-balanced sip with notes of orange bitters and an earthy finish, poured tableside and topped with a three-olive garnish. A luxe version of this martini comes accompanied with sturgeon caviar and a soft pretzel.

King of Dreams Cocktail

The Bites

The dining experience at Library Bar not only complements their crafty drink menu but also pairs nicely with people watching those strolling down Front Street on a chilly day. The menu is best shared while imbibing, and features timeless classics foraged right from Ontario’s farmland. The prologue offers starters in portions as filling as the main course so be sure to save some room. Start by sharing the Beetroot Hummus with sumac, pistachio, and pickles; it’s creamy, a tad smoky and way too easy to eat. Order the Truffled Brussel Sprouts, smattered with bits of bacon, cheese curds and chives, and evoking all of the flavors of a classic poutine.

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For your narratives, the Bay Street is a shaved prime rib sandwich, topped with crispy fried onions and served alongside a rich au jus for dipping. The Mushroom Toast incorporates a blend of wild mushrooms, black truffle, and gouda for a hearty bite. The service doesn’t miss a beat, with entrées arriving already divided into separate dishes for your party, eliminating the step of messy cutting across the table. Decadent desserts round out the menu.

Whether you find yourself here on a snowy winter evening or a warm summer’s day, Library Bar serves as a nostalgic sanctuary, inviting you to step back in time for a night of great drinks and even better laughter.

Library Bar 
100 Front Street W, Toronto, Canada
Hours: 12PM – 12AM, daily

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