La Distillerie, with its dark, intimate atmosphere and seemingly endless list of cocktails served up in mason jars, is every bit as unpretentious as it is trendy.
Of the three locations, I opted to quench my thirst at the original one. With a capacity of approximately 56 people the vibe was cozy yet cool, with a spattering of tall wooden bars and low round tables to congregate at. The bar glittered with bottles of every type of alcohol conceivable and blackboards on each wall offered suggested drinks.
In the corner near the door, one of these such blackboards had Distillerie’s golden rules, from encouraging patrons to pose questions to the barman to discouraging hopeful underage drinkers (but kindly inviting them back to celebrate their 18th birthday.)
Known for its original drinks, the Distillerie menu features everything from your classic mojito, to their twist on a tequila sunrise renamed as the Yariba Yariba, to the old fashioned affectionately dubbed, the Mad Man. The bartenders, or mixologists, can fix you up pretty much anything your heart desires, if somehow you can’t find something to your taste on their extensive menu.
My heart was won, however, when several seconds after taking my seat the server set down a mason jar filled with goldfish crackers in front of me and kept them coming all night.
Distillerie publishes its own magazine, L’Alambic, featuring seasonal specialty drinks as well as their standard cocktail menu. Each season, L’Alambic focuses around a theme, and for this fall it’s burlesque. The stars of the show were concoctions based on Chartreuse, Amarula and whiskey.
I decided to sample the seasonal Winter High Heels, made with Chartreuse, vodka, mint leaves, cranberry juice and apple cider. It was a perfect blend of herbal and sweet, and maybe went down a little too smoothly. For Distillerie’s mixologists bartending is a craft, and they don’t hold back on filling those mason jars with hefty doses of booze.
The service was attentive and it didn’t take long for our drinks to appear after ordering. With that being said, trying to flag down the server for our bill proved to be a little more difficult.
Even at 5 p.m. on a weekday, the place was pleasantly crowded with fellow student-types reaping the benefits of happy hour. Every evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Distillerie gives its patrons one more reason to slurp back a few of their cocktails: the larger 14oz mason jars are $3 cheaper. Normally the large size jars range from $17 to $19, while the smaller versions are between $8.50 and $10.
Bar-goers gave off an easy-going vibe, with small groups immersed in conversation throughout the modestly sized room. The music, an eclectic mix of early 2000s pop, was just loud enough to drown out the voices of those around you, but not too loud as to inhibit conversation around one’s own table.
The sartorial favorite of Distillerie’s patrons seemed to be plaid shirts and jeans, with the occasional appearance of ripped tights or a floral dress. It’s definitely a casual place, so if you’re looking to get dolled up and wear your most back-breaking heels, go elsewhere. However the atmosphere oozes trendiness, making it a haven for hip twenty-somethings.
La Distillerie is located on 300 Ontario St. E., 2047 Mont-Royal Ave., and 2656 Masson St.