My travels in search of adventure and fun in American cities like New York City, San Francisco and Chicago have brought me to unique, 1920’s-inspired (and often themed) speakeasies tucked away in secret nooks and crannies. I’ve entered one through a phone booth with a wall that turned out to be a hidden door and I found another by being lured into a closed barber shop that revealed a rum bar serving punches out of intricate silver bowls and teacups once I climbed a hidden staircase. Sometimes I’m given a specific address only to arrive at a nondescript, unmarked door or with an inconspicuous light and am told to knock until I am welcomed inside. Whenever I stumble upon one of these gems, I always feel like I’ve found the golden ticket to the cool scene in a city that I’m trying to get to know.
Unless you consider heading to Chinatown past 2:00 a.m. and ordering ‘cold tea’ an uber cool speakeasy, Toronto more or less lacks these venues. We had Goodnight Bar for awhile, but it fell victim to yet another sky-rise condo.
Around the incarnation of Goodnight Bar in 2010, it was announced that a membership-only drinking establishment would be opening in a secret location in downtown Toronto. It has been 3 years, and the Toronto Temperance Society (TTS) is still going strong. Probably the closest Toronto now has to a 20’s inspired watering hole, I recently gained access to the TTS and am excited to give you a glimpse into it.
Located above Sidecar restaurant at 577 College St. in Toronto, we were welcomed through a hidden door at the front of the restaurant disguised as part of the restaurant wall. Once opened, we walked up the staircase and were brought back in time.
Jazz music filled room at that perfect level: audible enough to listen, but not so loud as to make it difficult to talk with my company. The only interruption to the tunes was the sound of the bartenders at work with their cocktail shakers. A gorgeous dark mahogany piano was a centrepiece of the room, no doubt used on other nights to entertain.
The gentlemen bartenders were all dressed up in ties and vests and the servers were no less formal. Groups and couples were all quietly enjoying one another’s company at separate tables and on stools at the bar. There were no rambunctious, overly inebriated patrons in sight.
The drink menu featured an impressive selection of cocktails, gins, bourbons and tequilas, amongst other choices. I was immediately drawn to a cocktail that included chamomile-infused scotch, lemon, honey and a frothed egg white.
Luckily for me, my friends are good at sharing and we each sampled one another’s cocktails. They were each made with the freshest ingredients, house-made bitters and syrups and a great care for presentation. They were also reasonably priced between $10 and $14, no doubt subsidized by the $285 yearly membership fees of other members. Had we not just eaten dinner beforehand, the food menu featuring selections from Sidecar downstairs sounded and looked great.
You may be wondering how you can gain access to the TTS, try these delicious drinks and escape back to another time. Well, there are house rules, the first being that you must be a member or the guest of a member to get in. Or you can try this: tell the friendly staff at Sidecar that you’re considering a membership and would like to come in for a drink to check it out. But I didn’t tell you that.