Going out in Montréal was an interesting experience for us since the official languages are both French and English. We want to respect other countries’ languages, but my French is rusty at best, and Madeline and Matt’s is nonexistent. We didn’t know what language was more polite to start with, or if it’s even something worth fretting over. Our question was answered every time I attempted to break out my French and was promptly answered in English. The men I spoke to were very encouraging and told me I had excellent French, whereas the women didn’t even bother trying to speak French to me. For whatever reason, I feel like the men were lying…
Here are our favorite bars in Montréal:
This beer and whiskey pub in the heart of Old Montreal was bustling in the middle of the afternoon. We sampled a wide selection of brews native to Quebec, from sours to double IPAs. There were two that stood out. The Kalegin, brewed in house at Pub BreWskey, was a typically-brewed wheat beer. However, the addition of citronella, lemongrass, and ginger created an herby flavor with a super citronella mouth feel and a coriander filled finish. The other was a black imperial berliner weisse from Pit Caribou Brewing that the bartender was kind enough to let us sample. Intriguing? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely. I’d never had this style of beer before, but I was once again pleasantly surprised. A true tart berliner weisse with an imperial malty finish, this brew was my favorite of Quebec.
N. Sur Mackay
N. Sur Mackay is the best of both worlds. Its unmarked door and dark interior help it maintain a speakeasy vibe while large windows bring in the Montreal air. Its menu is one of the more unique I’ve seen, and very green chartreuse heavy. None of us were bold enough to try the cocktail featuring green chartreuse and cacao, but I did try a Laphroaig cocktail with chili pepper flakes. A sugared rim helped balance out the smokey spiciness and made it super easy to drink. We went early in the night when it was still slow and were greeted by the owner herself. She was friendly and told us more about her bar and the Montreal bar scene in general. We were in the mood for a club, and she got us on the list of a fun place close by.
Le Cheval Blanc
I expected more from Montreal’s oldest brewery. The vibe of the place is a super cool, old-timey diner feel. They were understaffed with only one bartender to serve a full front porch and busy bar. Nonetheless, I understood and was excited to see a nitro session IPA on draft, considering breweries rarely use nitro with an IPA. It was a mildly citrusy session with a super low alcohol profile that I enjoyed until its finish. The beer left a rather metallic feel throughout my mouth that was present in both others we tried as well. I would have enjoyed this brewery much more had I not gotten hints of oxidation—which is less than desirable—throughout all of these brews.
I was skeptical of Agrikol. I wanted to take it off the list in favor of another bar, but Matt is a sucker for tiki bars. I’m stubborn, but I can admit when someone else is right, and after going, Matt was so right. Our bartender was knowledgeable and clearly skilled. I never heard a sound as she stirred. The reoccurring theme in all of her cocktails was balance. Despite using Wray and Nephew overproof rum, the Kingston Swizzle maintained its light, fruity flavor. The Anisèt was one of the more dynamic anise based cocktails I’ve had, as the anise flavor was far more subtle here than a typical anise-based cocktail. The same is true for the Mant, a rum based cocktail with Suze, ginger, and mint. Ginger is another flavor that can be overpowering if a cocktail is unbalanced. In the Mant, it was subtle and brought out the flavors of the rum and mint. We went to Agrikol on a Sunday night, expecting it to be slow. It was packed with an hour and a half wait time for tables. We were lucky enough to find three seats available at the bar, but either way its worth the wait.
The Cold Room
The Cold Room is a fairly young speakeasy in the middle of Old Montréal. Despite being smack dab in the middle of a busy tourist zone, the bar is quiet and secluded. It maintains its seclusion because it is difficult to find. We found the address online and rang the bell at that address, only to realize we rang a random bell. We wandered the streets for until we found another unmarked door in the alley with a bell. After a cautious ring, we were greeted by a host who took us down some creepy stairs, through a freezer door, and into a beautiful bar in an old cold room. Some bad life advice and good speakeasy advice: go inside scary, unmarked doors and you’ll be rewarded—with alcohol. The bartender, Oliver, was impressive. He made good drinks, and he made them with style. He taught me how he shakes, and I can’t wait to practice his method next time I get behind a bar. We initially went in to have one drink—we each had three. My favorite was the Mucha Lucha, a take on the Canadian César (a Bloody Mary variation featuring Clamato, a tomato sauce and clam broth based juice). The Mucha Lucha had vodka, a lighter, salsa inspired clamato made in house, and popcorn solution. It was the perfect combination of savory and boozy. A close second to the Mucha Lucha was a spicy Gin drink Oliver crafted on the spot. He combined Ungava Gin and Carolina Reaper sauce in a way that worked flawlessly. I was impressed because spicy, savory, and gin don’t usually go together. This isn’t the easiest place to find, but find it and be rewarded.
What’s your favorite place in Montreal? Comment or let us know!