COUNTY COCKTAIL & SNACK BAR 798 Queen East, 416-781-4743, thecountygeneral.ca/cocktail
High-profile openings like Carbon Bar, Boots & Bourbon and the recently announced La Carnita in the Beaches have been garnering the east end a lot of attention.
Whether that statement elicits an emphatic "Finally!" or an exaggerated eye roll is beside the point, because it all boils down to rudimentary economics: supply and demand, baby.
And demand there is. Carlo Catallo's invitingly chilled-out County Cocktail & Snack Bar took about five seconds to become Riverside's spot du jour.
Carrying on the County General's legacy, the Riverdale location's back bar is adrift in bottles of brown. Rum, which is shaping up to be the next "it" spirit, dominates. Over 20 kinds are available here, from Diplomatico Reserva to El Dorado Single Barrel.
The list of libations mixed by manager Veronica Saye (formerly of the Harbord Room and Home of the Brave) is pared down and delicious.
"It's a very approachable and sessionable list," she explains. "Few of the drinks have more than four ingredients right now. I wanted to keep it simple."
Ah, a woman after my own liver.
Try the Belafonte (bourbon, Amaro Montenegro, sweet vermouth, Fernet Branca and cherry-masala-chai bitters, $14), smooth and spicy sipping for spirits lovers, and the Town Tart (rum, spiced raisin syrup, fresh lemon and ginger beer, $12), a riff on the crazy-popular Dark 'N' Stormy.
Though simplicity defines the County's cocktails, Saye's house-made sodas - including cream soda and celery - are far from basic. Her root beer, which has over 15 ingredients, took a ton of research and multiple batches to perfect.
Finished with a spritz from a vintage siphon, the sodas are kid-friendly, mindfully catering to the 'hood. Adults can add a shot of suggested spirit (rum and egg cream or Fernet and root beer) for a whimsical treat. Try a shot of amaro with your soda for a refreshing soft cocktail.
This summer you'll find me putting back a few celery sodas doctored with Cynar on the County Cocktail's side patio. Even though I live west, the CC and the evolution of Riverside make the bike ride east well worthwhile.
Access One step at entrance, washrooms on main floor.
Hours Bar open Sunday to Wednesday 11 am to 11 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am to close. Closed some holidays.