Bottle shops with unique offerings are now a common sight in the city. We've rounded up our 20 favourite spots to grab and go
By Kelsey Adams
Mar 18, 2021
Normally we’d be bringing you our picks for best new bars at this time of year. Though it’s been a tough winter for watering holes, it’s also been a time of major change. None of the restaurants and bars on this list are new, but a year ago most bottle shops didn’t exist in Toronto. If you wanted a punchy sour or a chilled orange wine, you had to dine in.
Last March, when the province announced that restaurants and bars could sell bottles and cocktails (with food), the city’s dining scene changed dramatically overnight. Suddenly, bars were Macgyvering makeshift shelves and benches to display bottles and pulling whatever they could find out of cellars. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario brought in the measure to help the struggling hospitality sector switch to delivery and takeout during lockdowns – but now bottle shops are here to stay.
No longer will Torontonians look wistfully to Montreal, with its more lax liquor laws, and be envious of their ability to pick up bottles from the local depanneur.
Now is our time. Maybe you don’t live near an LCBO or maybe you’re looking for more variety – either way the rise of bottle shops has opened up a world of possibilities. It’s really a great time to be a wine or beer lover in the city, with so much delivered with the click of a button. It’s hard to imagine a time before this, but also difficult to forget the reason it’s happening: businesses need help to stay open.
Making this list was not easy, but these bottle shops stand apart by importing hard-to-get bottles, focusing on niche offerings or providing virtual tastings and sommelier expertise to maintain the level of service you might get in a sit-down establishment.
The Mediterranean restaurant in North York may have temporarily shut down dining and takeout service in November but it bounced back fairly quickly as a pop-up bottle shop in December. They sell beer, cider, cocktail kits, spirits and easy-drinking wines from France, Italy, California and Niagara region. For something you can’t get anywhere else, they sell exclusive spirits by Ontario distiller Dillon’s that are served at Maison Selby and Canoe, like the Maison Selby Pineapple Honey Gin and Strawberry Rhubarb Vodka or Canoe Dill Pickle Vodka.
Hot tip: Anna Jarosz, manager and wine educator at Babel’s sister restaurant Auberge du Pommier, does virtual wine tastings and consultations based on their wine list.
There was a time when this Toronto coffee chain’s original location in Summerhill served a handful of wines and spirits for the after-dark crowd. Fast forward seven years later and their offerings have exploded. Their focus is on natural and biodynamic wines and, notably, their selection of amber and orange skin contact wines is superb. Craft beer, cider and vermouth round out their collection.
Hot tip: They recently launched a monthly wine club where they deliver three, six or 12 exclusive bottles that they import themselves.
You might not expect a diner to have such a sophisticated and intriguing wine list but this 43-year-old institution could surprise you. The ever-evolving menu is an eclectic mix of Middle Eastern, Canadian, French and Asian cuisines, so it follows the beverage offering would take you on a trip as well. With a plethora of natural, organic and biodynamic wines and selected craft beers from breweries like Sonnen Hill and Merit, Rosedale Diner is a serious contender.
What to try: They have the Las Jaras Glou Glou 2019 on sale right now – it’s a very quaffable red that’s always in high demand.
In May this Bloordale bar (formerly known as the 47) reopened with a new name as a bottle shop. They’re still slinging the Ontario craft beers and ciders they’ve been known for since 2015, with an admirable dedication to limited releases and a penchant for discovering new breweries. They also have several wines and spirits for sale.
Hot tip: Keep your eyes peeled to their Instagram, where they post when new drops arrive and when limited-quantity bottles are on the verge of selling out.
Boasting over 400 different wines available online, Archive lives up to its name. The laid-back wine bar has an unfussy vibe, and even though their wine list has some heavy hitters, there are a number of approachable wines from Spain, France, South Africa, Italy, Australia, Portugal and right here in Ontario. They’re big fans of local wines and have been since they opened in 2012, stocking Stratus, Pearl Morissette, Therianthropy, Malivoire and more.
Hot tip: Grab an Archive Pack to get multiple bottles of your faves at a discounted price.
Last year, this homey restaurant on Lansdowne amped up their already impressive wine offerings and created a mini bottle shop near their front window. On top of their wine list – carefully selected by beverage manager Vidal Wu, who is there in person most days to walk customers through their choices – they also sell beer, ciders, bottled cocktails, make-your-own cocktail packs and low- or no-ABV beverages.
What to try: The owners Ann Kim and Jed Smith’s favourites, Viña Gonzalez Bastias Naranjo, an aromatic wine they’ve had since they opened, and Therianthropy’s The Negotiant Cabernet Franc.
In the space that used to be Soso Food Club, Grape Crush built a steady following throughout 2020 as a new kid on the block with a rotating list of affordable wines. In the summer, Juice Box Bar opened up with a street patio and served natural, biodynamic and classic wines, craft beers, ciders and cocktails with a range of light snacks. The bottle shop maintains a lot of the fluorescent charm of the former restaurant and it has one of the city’s best wine displays, a built-in fixture that curves up the wall. The energy is fun and airy with an adventurous wine list to match.
What to try: Grape Crush recently joined forces with Prince Edward County’s Traynor Winery to create a juicy, red pétillant naturel. It’s a blend of Vidal Blanc, Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir, giving a vibrant ruby hue. The quirky label was created by local Toronto artists Jennifer Ilett.
We can’t see any movies in cinemas right now, but this bottle shop inside of Paradise Theatre gives you a worthy reason to visit. Osteria Rialto was one of the restaurants we couldn’t wait to eat at in 2020, and they’re part of a slew of spots that opened early in the year and had to quickly pivot to weather the pandemic. They have an impressive wine list, with an emphasis on Canadian wines like the organic and biodynamic Tawse Winery from Niagara region. On top of wine they sell digestifs like grappa and bottled cocktails like spiced negronis and the Fireside Chat, their take on a Manhattan.
What to try: For a celebratory night, try one of the select vintages they’ve pulled from their private dining cellar, which were previously only available if you were having a sit-down dinner.
After turning their cozy wine bar into a bottle shop last year, the team at Paradise started selling their own wines. They’ve produced a Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Zweigelt Pét-Nat, Orange Rosé, Gamay, piquette and a range of spritzers. They’ve been keeping themselves busy and the bottles always sell out. Aside from their own offerings, they have a focus on European wine regions and a decent amount of North American options. They also sell beer, cider and non-alcoholic drinks.
What to try: Their 2019 Cabernet Franc, one of the first wines they produced, that keeps getting better with age.
Tommy’s planned to have their grand opening last March, flipping an old variety store into a wine bar. Currently, they’re operating as a shop selling wine, craft beer, coffee and sandwiches from Donna’s. They’ve got everything from sophisticated lambruscos to sangria in a pouch. You can also pick up Sherm’s small-batch bagels at the shop.
What to try: The weather is getting warmer but it’s still chilly enough to get one of their spiked coffees to go.
The three-year old Paris Paris used to be a wine bar, serving shareable plates with its exceptional wine list. Currently it operates exclusively as a bottle shop and sells charcuterie, marinated olives and chips on the side. They’re selling fancy treasures that have been unearthed from their cellars, as well as a wide range of easy, drinkable wines for chill nights. Krysta Oben of Grape Witches manages their wine offering and also runs Grape Glass just down the street, which was meant to open as an event space but is a bottle shop in the interim.
Hot tip: Special requests can be made on their website where the team will curate a selection of bottles expertly suited to your taste.
This Queen West mainstay has been serving French cuisine and rare wine for 20 years. They’re currently operating as a grocery and bottle shop and paused their dining menu in December, but plan to bring it back in time for patio season. For now you can pick up vacuum-sealed charcuterie packs, heat-at-home meals like soups and duck confit and a selection of European cheeses to go with their list of classic wines from France, Italy, Spain and more.
Hot tip: They offer tastings, which are useful before committing to a new bottle.
The bottle shop at the front of Peter Pan Bistro has a number of impeccable wines, handcrafted bottled cocktails and small bites. They have a rotating list of bottles from different regions and every month there’s a focus on a particular region. For March, it’s all about sake and their monthly virtual tasting is devoted to the Japanese rice wine.
What to try: The Zanotto Col Fondo sparkling red, a funky prosecco made in the old-style way.
This dive named after the song by punk band Black Flag has some of the best local craft beer offerings in the city. With almost a decade under its belt, the Kensington Market bar has amassed a community of regulars who go there for the no-nonsense and unpretentious vibe. There’s no online ordering but they do a great job of updating their Instagram with the latest arrivals from breweries like Town, Willibald, Short Finger, Dominion City, Badlands, Bellwoods and more.
Hot tip: Check their Instagram stories to know what’s available on any given day before heading out.
This Korean bodega and bottle shop has premium sakes, fine wines, Korean snacks and bodega platters made up of Gochujang-glazed fried chicken thigh, japchae glass noodles, gyoza and kimchi. The restaurant became a bodega focusing on grocery and to-go items last August. You can grab a Korean-fried chicken sando and an ice cold can from Burdock brewery or a bottle of something a bit more sophisticated to take home for later.
What to try: Afruge, a limited quantity, small-batch sake that is also available at their sister restaurant Milou.
Volo’s everflowing, rotating list of international and local beers isn’t available on tap right now but their bottle shop offerings more than make up for that loss. The list of cans and bottles for sale is never-ending, with sours, kölsches, lagers and ales from small-batch breweries across Canada and the world. The family-owned bar is known as a go-to spot for craft beer lovers, but don’t discount their wine list. It’s full of hidden gems and funky, natural wines. Plus they do ready-made cocktails and sell Southern Italian and Spanish pantry items and snacks.
What to try: Whatever they have in stock from Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery, a cult favourite from California that is very hard to get your hands on.
For lovers of French wine (with a side of Italian) Bodega Henriette is the place. Whether Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Alsace, Loire Valley or Côtes du Rhone is your region of choice, this Gerrard East bistro has them covered. Pick up is available at their King and Sherbourne location as well.
What to try:The Vincent Gaudry Le Tournbridge Sancerre would pair very well with Henriette’s chicken pot pie to-go.
Good Cheese is a wine lover’s dream. The East Chinatown cheese shop opened up a patio last year and started serving a few wines by the glass. Since winter hit, they’ve expanded the shop to include over 170 different wines. The list ranges in price from accessible, crushable reds to more funky and challenging skin contact wines.
What to try: Pair their triple cream brie with a fruity gamay or beaujolais.
During the summer, this Riverside hole-in-the-wall bar used their front window to create a super eye-catching wine display. Now it’s easier to miss the tucked away spot, but they’re still selling a wide range of wines and beers. The Comrade is all about specialty cocktails like the Gilded Radner (gin with minty fernet, bitters, lemon juice, ginger syrup and egg white), which they’ve been prepping in mason jars as cocktails-to-go until patio season hits. There’s no online shop so you have to DM on Instagram or call to place orders.
What to try: They make custom cocktails and their bartenders will prep everything for you, you just have to dream it up.
Wynona is a seafood-leaning Italian restaurant so naturally they have a stellar list of white wines. They’ve got classics like Chardonnay but also some harder to find wines like Txakoli, an effervescent white wine from Spain and Semillon from Australia. Visit in store if you can, they have even more options in person.
Hot tip: They have a bottle shop food menu that includes garlic oregano sausages, marinated olives, focaccia, desserts and more
Kelsey Adams is an arts and culture journalist born and raised in Toronto. Before covering food, life and culture for NOW Magazine, she wrote about music, art and film for several publications, including the Globe and Mail, The FADER, Complex CA and Canadian Art.