Back to school: Where to drink on a budget

As cocktail prices skyrocket, finding a bar that charges $10 or less for a Negroni or Dark ’n’ Stormy feels like stumbling upon unmined treasure. But just because you’re a broke-ass student doesn’t mean you’re stuck with boxed wine and Pilsner for the rest of your degree(s). Affordable cocktails are out there, so treat yourself. A competently mixed 2- to 3-ounce classic at about the $10 mark is a damn good deal. Remem­ber: ­affordable drinks are not an excuse to be chintzy with your bartender. If you have enough money to go out for drinks, you have enough to tip.


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  • 1

    Belfast Love

    548 King W, Toronto, Ontario

    548 King West, 416-363-2223, donnellygroup.ca, @belfastlovepub

    This hopping King West party pub opened by Vancouver-based hospitality empire the Donnelly Group doesn’t mark up the essentials. Negronis are $10, Fitzgeralds (stiff gin sours dashed with Angostura bitters) are $9, and fruitier favourites like Paper Planes and mai tais are still affordable at $11. 

  • 2

    Good Fortune Bar

    130 Eglinton E, Toronto, Ontario

    130 Eglinton East, 647-351-2130, facebook.com/goodfortunebar

    Uptown Generation Z-ers, rejoice: Good Fortune has been bestowed upon you. Nothing will help you forget about that questionable psychology grade like a new-fashioned brain freeze courtesy of a boozy milkshake ($10) made with the company’s Sweet Jesus soft serve. If that’s not filling enough, grab snacks at the bar or head upstairs to the city’s shiniest, newest La Carnita. Just save room for a cocktail jello shot ($5).

  • 3

    Earls Kitchen + Bar – King W

    150 King W, Toronto, Ontario

    150 King West, #100, 416-916-0227, earls.ca, @earlsrestaurant

    Even corporate mega-restaurants have drinkable cocktails now. What a time to be alive. You could drink here on the cheap every night of the week if you wanted to the up side of big box restaurants is that they can afford to curb markups in the interest of volume. So whether it’s margaritas or Palomas on a Monday ($5) or $2 off signature cocktails on a Thursday, Earl’s makes it easy to part with your OSAP dollars. Proceed with caution.

  • 4

    The Lakeview

    1132 Dundas W, Toronto, Ontario M6J 1X2

    1132 Dundas West, 416-850-8886, thelakeviewrestaurant.ca, @Lakeview_Lunch

    If you’re a student, the Lakeview is likely not news to you – or anyone else who’s ever been drunk or hungover in downtown Toronto. Here’s my seasoned advice: taking advantage of $3 mimosas and $4 Caesars is a rite of passage. (There’s cheap beer, too.) 

  • 5
    FOOD-FarmHouseTavern_12.jpg

    R. Jeanette Martin

    Farmhouse Tavern

    1627 Dupont, Toronto, Ontario M6P 3S8

    1627 Dupont, 416-561-9114, farmhousehospitality.tumblr.com, @farmhousetavern

    It’s time for initiation. Every Sunday, the Farmhouse Tavern hosts the best power specials in the city. Kicking off at 3 pm with $3 mimosas, various food and drink is deeply discounted every hour until 10 pm: $4 Caesars at 4 pm, $7 cocktails at 7 pm, etc. In order to fully participate in the local mini-tradition known as F*ck Mondays, I’d recommend choosing a class schedule that eases you tenderly into the week.

  • 6

    Maple Leaf Tavern

    955 Gerrard E, Toronto, Ontario

    955 Gerrard East, 416-465-0955, mapleleaftavern.ca, @MapleLeafTavern

    Practise being a tasteful adult at this gorgeous renovated east-side relic, where the cocktails are simple, tasty and affordable. The house Pisco Punch (pisco, spiced pineapple, lime, sparkling wine) runs you $9, along with my personal fave, the Garibaldi (Campari and fresh whipped orange juice). Other cocktails range from $11 to $14. Once you’re done, head across the street to Pinkerton’s (1026 Gerrard East, @ChefPinkerton), a laid-back and reasonably priced snack and cocktail bar.

  • 7
    aft.jpg

    Michael Watier

    AFT Kitchen & Bar

    686 Queen E, Toronto, Ontario M4M 1G9

    686 Queen East, 647-346-1541,aftbar.com, @aft_bar

    Riverside’s cozy locale for whiskey and BBQ offers sweet deals on house cocktails every day of the week. Bourbon sours, whiskey-laced sweet teas and spiked smoked peach Arnold Palmers are only $6 till 6 pm. (FYI, Aft opens at 11 am daily.) Order a snack so you can hit the rest of the night running. 

  • 8

    Track & Field Bar

    860 College, Toronto, Ontario

    860 College, trackandfieldbar.com,@trackfieldbar

    As if octogenarian games like bocce and shuffleboard in a windowless party bar weren’t enough to lure millennials, Track & Field keeps its cocktail list reasonable with $10 Negronis, house sangria, boozy iced teas and Porch Crawlers (yes, that’s the familiar freshman combo of vodka, beer and pink lemonade) available on tap. 

  • 9

    The Slip

    235 Queens Quay W, Toronto, Ontario

    235 Queens Quay West,theslip.ca, @theslipto

    A massive waterfront patio, fried snacks, $10 margaritas and Paper Planes – what more could you possibly need to numb a case of back-to-school malaise? Attached to the Harbourfront Centre, The Slip is the spot to get your fill of late summer sunshine and draft cocktails with a view.

  • 10

    Grand Electric

    1330 Queen W, Toronto, Ontario

    1330 Queen West, 416-627-3459, grandelectrictoronto.com, @grandelectricto

    Parkdale’s popular wallet-friendly taco joint is almost always rammed, and not just because of the bourbon-packed back bar and Mexican-ish street food. Only a handful of the house cocktails wiwll run you more than $10 (Caesars are $11, Palomas and Bourbonades are $10.50). Everything else, from GE’s vanilla bourbon sour to a mint julep, costs $10 or less.

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