Hot Summer Guide: Pitcher perfect

Hit the patio with a pack of your peeps and knock back cool cocktails by the pitcher


Food & Liquor

1610 Queen West, 647-748-7113, foodandliquor.ca, @FoodandLiquorTO

Food & Liquor’s partially covered back patio, livened up with leafy ivy and strings of lights, has one of the most laid-back vibes in Parkdale. A haunt for west-end industry folk needing to relax and refresh after a long service, it’s an ideal spot to ram cocktails and snacks into your face any day of the week. 

Bar manager Veronica Saye (who just won Speedrack Canada, an all-female charity bartending competition in support of breast cancer), offers three communal cocktails like pitchers of Pimm’s Cup (spiked with gin and garnished with cucumber, mint, lemon and blueberries), white sangria and boozy iced tea ($38). 

Patio hours Daily 5 pm to 2 am,

Saturday and Sunday 2 pm to 2 am.

Access Barrier-free, washrooms in basement.

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Valdez 

606 King West, 416-363-8388, valdezrestaurant.com, @thevaldezTO

It’s hard for me to walk onto Valdez’s rooftop patio overlooking King West’s empire of gloss without reminiscing (cringing) about so many vodka-drenched Sunday nights at Cheval. Thankfully, the drink program at Valdez goes way beyond a discount bottle of Grey Goose and an assortment of No Name juices. Cocktails by the litre are where it’s at on the colourful, sun-soaked roof amidst the tantalizing smells of sizzling short ribs and grilled quail on the BBQ and the rocking tunes and laughter. 

The Mejor Margarita (Cazadores Reposado, Cointreau, lime and agave) isn’t a hard sell, and the Mo-Tio (Bacardi 8, raspberries, mint, ginger syrup and soda, both $25 per litre), a summery, spicy take on your mom’s favourite cocktail, won’t last long in the sunshine. There’s also red and white sangria ($20) if you dig basic refreshment. 

Patio hours Friday and Saturday 7 pm to late. Downstairs bar open 5 pm to late Monday to Saturday. Closed Sunday.

Access Barrier-free, washrooms on main floor. Patio upstairs.

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El Catrin

18 Tankhouse, 416-203-2121, elcatrin.ca, @elcatrinca

For those who don’t live near the Distillery District, chances are visits to this lovely historic ’hood are limited to a few times yearly: the Christmas Market, isolated food-related events and summertime. El Catrin’s sprawling cobbled patio is guaranteed to be rammed all summer long, so when you score a table, plan on kicking back, ordering a pitcher of cocktails and scrapping plans for the rest of the day. 

Five signature variations on the margarita like the Frutas Fresca (Tromba blanco, Patron Citronge, agave nectar with fresh mango, blackberries or watermelon, $45) and the Mayan (Herradura Reposado, Patron Citronge, tamarind, citrus and a tajin rim, $53) come in shareable sizes along with jugs of mojitos ($35) and sangria ($40). Should you linger till the sun sets and a chill creeps up, there’s a central fire pit (and lots of tequila) to keep you warm.

Patio hours Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 11 pm (kitchen closed from 4 to 5 pm). Bar open till late Friday and Saturday. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10:30 am to 3 pm. 

Access Barrier-free, washrooms on main floor.

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Big Crow 

176 Dupont (behind Rose and Sons), 647-342-0356, roseandsonsbigcrow.com, @bigcrowbbq

’Tis the season for the top to be ripped off Big Crow’s simple summer-camp mess hall of a back patio. Much as we love cozy covered patios when it’s minus 30, it’s finally our time to bask in the sunlight. Between bites of barbecue, freshen up with Mason jars brimming with house cocktails like peach-bourbon-spiked sweet tea (exactly what it sounds like, $27), Georgia Punch (Havana Club, lime, grapefruit and elderflower, $39) and sprightly Spring Sangria (rosé, Cointreau, cucumber and watermelon, $20). 

If you’re seeking something stronger, opt for Mickeys (375 ml bottles) with custom splits: Tanqueray with tonic, cucumber and lime or Canadian Club with Thomas Lavers ginger beer, Coster’s blackstrap bitters and lime will help you and your pals accelerate from day to night. 

Patio hours Sunday to Wednesday 5 to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 5 to 11 pm, weekend brunch 11 am to 3 pm. 

Access Alley access, three steps at entrance, three steps to washrooms.

The Gaslight

1426 Bloor West, 647-402-9728, facebook.com/thegaslightTO

I’ve got it all figured out: the snug patio behind the Gaslight will be my staycation destination this summer. Trimmed with plants and built-in wooden benches, it’s an adorable extension of this Bloor West local. 

Don’t waffle over how to spend your June afternoons. Rally some friends, grab a few pitchers of owner Megan Jones’s delicious hibiscus margarita (tequila, Cointreau, lime, hibiscus tea and allspice syrup) and gin-laced sage lemonade with ginger liqueur and orange blossom water ($33) and let the afternoon melt away. 

Patio hours  Sunday to Thursday 5 to 11 pm, weekends 2 to 11 pm. Bar open late.

Access Barrier-free, washrooms in basement.

drinks@nowtoronto.com | @S_Parns

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