[OPENING] The Cocktail Parlor @ STORYS Shakes Up the Cocktail Scene
One month ago, Toronto restaurant and entertainment power-duo Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji (Patria, Weslodge etc.) teamed back up with familiar colleagues, Stuart Cameron (Patria and Weslodge’s Executive chef) and Elan Marks (Weslodge cocktail director) to create The Cocktail Parlor at STORYS.
Unlike the aforementioned establishments, as The Cocktail Parlor’s name would suggest, the focus here is on booze. Located up on the 2nd floor of the rustic 170-year old Duncan St STORYS building, the room exudes sophisticated vintage charm.
The tables are made of a lovely light wood accompanied by curvy leather banquettes and full-backed low chairs, below which round ball lamps dangle down. There’s also a lot of interesting metallic installation pieces arranged along the walls and between booths.
One glimpse at the generously stocked bar would make any cocktail-enthusiast squeal in a climactic #boozegasm. The back wall holds rows of circular shelves stocked with premium liquors, while hand-written descriptions of housemade bitters and flavoured liquors are set at the front of the bar.
Elan Marks has created an extensive 66-cocktail list culminated into a story-book like menu- an appropriate theme considering the name of the event space we were in. Just a quick flip-through the stylized 1920s pages and I feel as though I have been swept back to the age of speakeasies and prohibition. The preface states with literary splendor, “A tale is told through each ingredient, conceived and composed to elicit gusto with each flavour. This story stretches across eras from industrial to deco, a mise-en-scene unlike any other. Beyond the clamour of charades and drunked jest, is a parlor filled with lore for our ages.” Drinking so often leads to great stories, and I was quite excited to see how mine would come together.
The menu is loosely organized by predominant spirit, each page featuring whimsical artwork and enchanting famous quotes. In addition to a creative name and a full description of ingredients, each cocktail is accompanied by a seductive series of tasting notes- poetry like “fatty little rich bitch, intriguing balance of fat & acid”. Mmm... apparently, I’m quite fond of fat rich bitches. In addition to an extensive selection of cocktails featuring whisky, rum, and tequila, there is a full page of Manhattans, another for different Old Fashions, and even a selection of absinth-based drinks.
My favourite page, however, was definitely “The Sin of Gin”, which featured 7 gin cocktails, each appropriately named after each of the deadly sins (gluttony, bring it on). And if you’re feeling extra sinful, you can go for Dante’s Inferno which apparently features a short of each sin - oy! If for whatever reason you’re not feeling the straight-up spirits one night, The Cocktail Parlor also does wine. There are about 18 different international offerings to choose from, most of which are available by bottle, 3 oz, 5 oz or ½ bottle pours. Over the course of my visit, I had a chance to sample a few of the house favourites (okay, so maybe I did more than just sampled.. and I had more than just a few). Here’s a little #cocktail porn to get you pumped for this hotspot.
The Looking Glass : Bowmore 12yr Scotch, Yellow Chartreuse, Edmond Briotett Dark Crème de Cacao, Fernet Branca, Tincture of Cinnamon, Orange Oil ($22)
i. rich & silky smooth, the flavour notes of the whisky are expertly teased out & placed center stage
The Doppler Effect : Roasted Blueberry Vodka, Housemade Weissbier Liqueur, Fresh Lemon, Orange bitters ($14)
i. a refreshing marriage of berry fruit, citrus and spice
Christopher the Green Mule : Green Chartreuse, Fresh Lime, Simple Syrup, House Ginger Beer ($14)
i. refreshingly spicy with a sweet herb finish
Cavendish : Makers Mark Bourbon, Banana Liquor, Tinctures of Cloves and Cinnamon, Angostura Bitters, House Dried Banana ($16)
i. Ripe banana with notes of island spices
Stormin’ in Like a Jerk : Jerk Spiced Rum, Fresh Lime, House Ginger Beer, Cinnamon, Thyme
i. prevalent island spices & chili heat are the perfect compliment to this classic long drink
Sloe Gin Fizz : Sloe Gin, Gin, Spiced Orange Syrup, Lemon, Egg White, Soda ($14)
Orange Spiced Old Fashioned : Bulleit Bourbon, Orange Spiced Syrup, Angostura Bitters, Xocolatl Mole Bitters, Orange Oil ($16)
i. outstanding orange spices unit with bold sweetness and are mellowed with a hint of spiced bitter chocolate
South of France : Absinthe, Sauvignon Blanc, Mint, Simple Syrup, Tincture of Ginger ($19)
i. floral and refreshing; like nothing you’ve ever had
Day of the Dead : Fortuna Mezcal, Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon, House Coffee Liqueur, Tincture of Coffee, Grapefruit Oil ($23)
i. smoked wood, intoxicating chocolate and espresso finish with subtle grapefruit and earth
To pair with the boozy menu, Chef Stuart Cameron has prepared a small menu of nibbles and bar bites. We’re not talking about chicken wings and French fries here, folks. Oh no, no, no. The menu here is sexy, sophisticated, and absolutely scrumptious. Here’s a little teaser of what you might taste on your visit.
Smoked Bar Nuts- Espelette Pepper & Honey ($4)
Fried Zucchini Flowers – Curried Chickpeas & Jalapeno ($8)
Spiced Ash Hamachi – Bruleed Lime & Coconut Dust ($10)
Mennonite Chicken – Stuffed with Chorizo with Long Pepper & Honey ($14)
Duck Terrine – with Foie Gras within Buttery Brioche topped with Pickled Pear ($8)
Dry Aged Ribeye – Topped with Piri Piri and Yukon Potato Puree cooked on a Himalyan Salt Block ($14)
Tarte Flambe – with Chanterelles, Pecorino & Crème Fraiche ($14)
Sweets Plate – Apple Cider Ice Cream, Brioche & Brown Butter ; Limoncello & Aperol Bon Bons ; Chocolate Mousse with Yuzu Curd & Seasalt ; Aero Chocolate, Strawberry & Sumac ($8 per head)
The Cocktail Parlor is located on the 2nd floor of STORYS at 11 Duncan St and is open 5 PM – late Wednesday to Friday, and 7 PM to late on Saturday. You can make a reservation by calling 416-367-5151, which I strongly suggest you do. Sexy cocktail bars like this don’t go unnoticed, and I have an feeling the Cocktail Parlor may be one of the top TIFF hangouts this year. Cheers!