The Prairie city is developing a cool cocktail scene. Here’s where to enjoy the best sips in town.
From the early days of the European fur trade to the current craft brewing boom, Winnipeg has been a beer city through and through. Fortunately for those who love a bone-dry Daiquiri or a proper Porn Star Martini mixed with local vodka, the craft cocktail scene is catching up. The city might only boast only a handful of bars where you can lose yourself in a superbly executed drink, but they are all fabulous in their own ways.
The Roost on Corydon
Perched like a treehouse in the attic of a century-old home in Little Italy, The Roost is an adorable little hideaway where Winnipeg’s cocktail renaissance first hatched in 2015, with whimsical libations dusted in glitter and topped with cotton-candy clouds.
Back then, the owners were just kids who had dropped out of university to make boozy treats. Today, the Oddlot Collective runs three of the city’s hottest rooms, including The Oxbow Natural Wine Bar & Restaurant and Parcel Pizza.
The proudly safe, cave-like space with sloped ceilings and birch-pole accents attracts a young, diverse crowd who clamour for the corner booth (a.k.a. Make-Out City). In warmer months, the rooftop garden blooms into a lively nest overlooking the city’s hopping patio district.
Seasonally changing menus lean toward sparkly floral cocktails with names like Fairy Cobbler and Garden Gnome, as well as a solid selection of Temperance Tipples. But you’ll also find simple, spirit-forward signatures and seriously good spins on classics. If it’s available, go for the Galactic Daiquiri with hopped rum, which is dry enough to impress even a diehard Hemingway fan.
Patent 5 Distillery
This former livery stable in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District is an elegant spot to sip the first whisky produced in Winnipeg since 1880. It’s actually one of the only places you can find Patent 5 Single Barrel Release #1, which sold out within an hour when it was released last November. Try the sherry-cask-finished high rye neat, on the rocks or stirred into a Manhattan, where its smooth, nutty notes work astonishingly well with sweet vermouth.
Bartender Nick Drescher creates high-concept seasonal menus—this summer’s theme is travelling carnival—but will always offer classics and simple serves that make the award-winning house spirits shine. Look for rarities like Navy Strength Gin, Manitoba Berry (Old Tom-style) Gin, and, coming soon, pot-stilled rum made from Crosby’s Molasses.
Furnished with wood panelling, stained glass and chandeliers salvaged from the St. Regis Hotel’s storied Oak Room, the high-ceiling bar has a moody, romantic vibe that feels right for date nights. For special group get-togethers, book a cocktail class, tour or tasting in the Barrel Room.
Thomas Hinds Sampling Room
Cigars and cocktails? Yes! This dark, sexy speakeasy behind the Thomas Hinds retail shop is one of the very few fully licensed smoking lounges in Canada. Even if you have no interest in chomping on a Cohiba (there is no obligation to partake), it’s absolutely worth checking out for the swellegant vibe, live jazz and excellent drinks.
Truth be told, it’s mostly young bros huddled in the green velvet booths. (The older gents the owners anticipated when they opened this downtown space last year are probably all over at the Manitoba Club, which has its own private smoking room.) But manager Jacqueline Gourlay makes a gal on her own feel right at home.
In addition to a long list of whiskies, the bar offers spirit-forward classics and creative originals meant for pairing. Try Gourlay’s Cognac Old Fashioned with a Partagas D4, which has a floral finish that doesn’t smother the drink. Or opt for smoke in a bubble on the passionfruit and mezcal Margarita.
Either way, a state-of-the-art HVAC system ensures that everyone leaves smelling sweet.
Sandwiched between low-income apartments and millionaire’s row, a few blocks in from Sherbrook Street in hip West Broadway, Langside Grocery doesn’t get a lot of accidental foot traffic.
But that’s all more reason to seek out this charming snug, where the friendly regulars include a neighbourhood cat named Trixie.
The heritage building (which did operate as a grocery store in the early 1900s) has been lovingly restored and gorgeously furnished with a tin ceiling, dark wood bar, tufted leather banquettes and a striking wolf taxidermy peering down from above.
The kitchen’s French-Italian small plates are classic, but the smartly edited beverage list is eclectic—offering everything from a classic Monte Carlo and PX sherry to a zero-proof sparkling Pinot Noir from Germany (Leitz) and Miller High Life tallboys.
—by Alexandra Gill