CLOSED: Cold Tea Bar (Toronto)

Cold Tea is just cool. It’s not on a rooftop, celebrities likely won’t frequent the place and in fact there’s not even a menu and they only accept cash. But, its “can only find if you’re in the know” location and knowledgeable mixologists gives the bar a Manhattan vibe, which is cool for me. There’s no frills here, the bar is essentially a room with simply painted walls and plain wooden furniture. Just do yourself a favour and try to sit at one of the five seats; it’s a treat to see all the cocktail making action.

Visiting early on a Friday evening after dinner, we were the first people at the place. But, the tranquility didn’t last long as within fifteen minutes others started trickling in. Cold Tea’s vibe is casual and the first bartender filled us in on details of the place: from its varying hours to explaining the patio is a great Sunday hangout as local restaurants come by to serve eats in the summer.
Personally, I enjoy ordering drinks without a menu. Whatever I’m craving at the time is described and voila it arrives. If you know what you want, like my husband, then simply name it. He started with a dark and stormy ($10), a strong concoction that adds hair to your chest with the black rum and ginger beer mix.

For me, I felt like something, “gin-based, not too sweet … and if there’s cucumber in there than even better.” So, he made me a gin gimlet ($10), the classic gin, lime and soda but with some cucumber puree and garnish to satisfy my craving.

You can tell the people who work here are serious about making drinks. A second Asian gentlemen arrived shortly thereafter and prepared our second round. Watching him make a cocktail reminds me of sitting in the kitchen at a Chef’s table. This time, my husband wanted something “Hendricks-based” and me a “gin fizz”. After carefully contemplating our requests he whipped up a golden vesper martini ($12) for him – suggesting that they use something other than the Hendricks as with all the other alcohols, it wouldn’t be required and why pay more? It’s this knowledge that we truly appreciate and the outcome a strong drink that starts to mellow out as it goes down. 

The gin fizz ($12) was more difficult. Remembering the Ramo’s version I had in NOLA, it felt like the perfect end to the evening: an easy sipping drink that has a dessert-like quality to it. At Cold Tea, he substituted another liqueur to eliminate the cream requirements – yet the drink still have that rich smoothness to it. Vigorously shaken along with lemon juice, sugar, carbonated water, egg whites it arrived in its milkshake glory.

But, along the way the bartender carefully refined the taste (a few drops here, another ingredient there) and siphoned off small tastes of it with a straw to make sure it was perfect. It wasn’t a mad rush of just pouring things, shaking and adding to a glass. He respected the craft of making cocktails and you could taste his care.

Cold Tea, aside from the BBQ Sundays, is really a place for drinks. A small dim sum booth, at the entrance, offers some carby comfort if you’ve had one too many for the evening. And it’s the first sign that you’re in the right place. So, if you want to also be in-the-know head down to Kensington Market and look for the Kensington Mall.

Enter the building and walk down the long hallway until you find an unlabeled door to the left with a red light above it.

Open the door and you’ll be in a dark hallway. Continue onwards, make a right and you’ll see the small dim sum cart – you have arrived! Good luck finding the place, it’s an excitingly impressive place to bring someone to. Well, maybe except for a first date … as the walk through an empty building into a door with red light thing may just creep them out. 

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 58 Kensington Avenue 

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