Don't tell your friends. Do not read any further. Let's keep this on the down-low. Hidden behind a Barbershop, The Gift Shop is one of Toronto's best hideaways for a nightcap, or six.
OUR ARTICLEBY: Pete Whish Contributing writer
As you approach a seemly closed barbershop on Toronto’s Ossington strip you’ll notice a vintage desk lamp that illuminates a small corner of the empty shop. Though many would assume that the lamp mistakenly remained lit after a busy day at the barbershop, few will know that it actually signifies that the Gift Shop is open for business.
Once you’ve passed through the dark barbershop, you’ll find an intimate bar that nails the speakeasy vibe without seeming contrived. You instantly feel that you’ve discovered the secret watering hole open only for the barbers that man the shop by day. The beautifully designed bar is perfectly curated with vintage trinkets and oddities. Though every inch of the space is prime Instagram material, the low-key, speakeasy vibe overpowers the urge to snap a few pics.
For a life-changing experience, look no further than a dram of Octomore — the world’s most peated single malt.
Open since 2017, the 16-seat capacity Gift Shop is a haven from the nearby over-crowded bars that line Ossington Avenue, Toronto’s answer to Abbot Kinney Blvd. Originally an artist’s studio, Gift Shop has quickly established itself as the perfect hideaway to stop by for an early cocktail or to cap off a booze-soaked night stomping through Toronto’s west end. Served in vintage glassware, the menu combines classic cocktails with modern concoctions, rotating every few months. Regulars of Gift Shop will order off-menu, taking full advantage of the bartenders’ uncanny ability to create a boozy yet balanced beverage. Needing only a request of your favorite spirit or flavor profile, you are in safe hands with those who stand guard behind the bar. However, if the only ‘ingredients’ you prefer to add to your drink are rocks, the Gift Shop’s curated selection of Tequila, Mezcal, Bourbon, and Whisky include some of the most rare and obscure labels found in Toronto. For a life-changing experience, look no further than a dram of Octomore — the world’s most peated single malt. The sleek matte black bottle that houses this peated nectar looks as if it could be the urn that holds the ashes of the Most Interesting Man in the World. This scotch, often only available at auction, is a must-try.
Regardless if you choose a new-age cocktail or a traditional single malt, Gift Shop’s head bartender, known simply as ‘H’, will serve up the goods in a flash. With a Birmingham accent likened to a character from the pages of a Guy Ritchie script, ‘H’ will be your guide through Gift Shop’s abundant assortment of alcoholic anomalies.
Settle in at the bar with a stiff drink, introduce yourself to the locals next to you (seriously, because all Canadians are nice) and pat yourself on the back for deciding to hit the concrete like a true Torontonian.
With a Bartender known only as “H” you’ll feel like you’re in a Bond movie recieving inventive vices from a man who goes by one letter
If you’re in dire need of a trim, you’ll have to walk past barber chairs on the way in to this speakeasy
Make a drink time by calling 416-551-9707
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