Montreal's Best 5 a 7 Happy Hours
It's starting to feel like that time of year when it's real nice to curl up in a warm bar/pub/restaurant with a glass/bottle/snack of something of warm and delicious. The problem is deciding where to go and having the pocketbook for it. That's why these carefully-chosen categories are here to help you figure it out. Much like for Montreal's Best Desserts, this was a tough assignment. My liver was a lot less happy about it than my taste-buds.
Best Seasonal Cocktail and $5 Special:
This relaxed downstairs lounge on Bishop Street has the best $5 special from 5pm-8pm. Around Hallowe'en I was so impressed by their pumpkin spice cocktail with spiced rum, Disaronno, and house-made pumpkin syrup (real pumpkin cooked down with sugar syrup, purÃ©ed, and sieved into dessert in a glass). Getting into the Christmas season, a sweet vermouth, red wine, cinnamon, and house-made (it's a theme, this house-made syrups and infusions things) ginger-honey syrup creation that tasted like mulled wine but better. Fresh ginger for kick, vermouth for purity, and they actually used a decent red wine. Want to bet your favourite sangria place or that cheap glass of mulled wine doesn't use something only sort of red and wine-ish from a box or an extremely low-quality bottle?
So you can't bank on either the pumpkin or mulled wine cocktail being available, but the special of the day is a safe bet. The regular cocktail menu is also generally stellar, though a little pricier ($7-$9). Their margarita comes with orange blossom water (though I couldn't taste it), the Aviation comes with Elderflower syrup, and the sour comes with your "poison-of-choice". Hopefully, soon to be hard-to-find pisco. They also do a stellar Manhattan for all the Cinzano snobs out there.
And $14 pitchers of BorÃ©ale for all the definitely not Cinzano snobs out there.
Peanuts are free during happy hour at Kafein, but the house antipasti board ($15) is perfect for the slightly classier days and is more than enough to share. Heaps of Italian salumi (like salami, but involving more kinds of cured meat than just the one), Quebec goats milk cheese, not-from-a-can olives, grapes, pistachios and walnuts with onion jam, Dijon mustard and grilled focaccia.
From the owners of Bily Kun, this is a cool place for a cocktail, glass of wine, port, or a pint. Everyone's welcome, but it's like the cool kids didn't get the notice that less cool people were welcome too, so we're all free to cavort with the beautiful local celeb-types. It's not cheap, and there's not really a happy hour special, but you'll find the place packed every weekday with young professional type's of all sorts. Bitburger JR and Scottish Black Watch on tap next to Cheval Blanc and the usual Ste-Ambroise and Griffon suspects.
Best Mason Jar of Booze
Super expensive, but the kind of place where you drink one mason jar of mojito, wince when you see the $17 price tag, love it, think you can handle another drink...(you don't wince the second time at the $8.50 price tag on the Sailor's Wet Dream - Sailor Jerry, Kahlua, CrÃ¨me de banane, pineapple juice, cream, and allspice)
...and another ($17 Trempette Flamande du Dr Terreur - "Flemish Dip of Dr. Terror" with whiskey, Amarula cream, egg white, bitters, Orgeat syrup - almond, sugar, and rose or orange flower water - and enough black beer to knock you on your ass all by itself without the first cocktail and the second martini thrown in). Noy were you wrong. It was all the fault of that menu that was like a newspaper, all wholesome and quaint, enticing you into believing the drinks weren't dangerous. Hopefully you get home or grab a burger and a glass of water at La Paryse next door before the sugar headache kicks in. I dare you to not enjoy yourself at La Distillerie, though. There are a lot of happy people. And stuff gets lit on fire. And that's always fun when it involves the bartenders and it's intentional, not accidental.
THE WINE SECTION
Best Litre of Canadian:
1/2 off Canadian private import bottles of wine (ex: $60 bottles for $30) between 5 and 7. Yes, if you stay for dinner the house-made pappardelle with slow-cooked rabbit ragu or the blood sausage in all its glory will cost as much as that wine, but if you can reign in your appetite and just share a snack it's an incredible steal. Best: A multi-page Canadian wine list that highlights big names coming out of Ontario and BC.
Best Glass of Wine (Quality vs. Price):
Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins
There's no discount for happy hour here but the prices are so good anyway that I'm perfectly happy to drink a $6 glass of delicious, natural, low or zero-sulfite wine knowing that I'm not pumping myself up with added sugars, preservatives, and other chemicals. $10 for a small plate of salty and delicious charcuterie platter made in-house to go with it isn't a bad option either. Bring on the bread!
You're going to need a reservation; this place is popular, especially the bar overlooking the open kitchen. Foodies, cooks, and hipsters unite.
Daily happy hour specials mean $5 on those above-mentioned natural wines (it's almost healthy), or trio of tasting selections. Best deal: $15-$24 for three 2 oz. glasses chosen by the sommelier for a mix of white, red and maybe sparkly or sweet all either from the same producer or the same area or the same type of grape. They have a snack menu too, and while $8 is a bit much for simply grilled vegetables, these are at least very good vegetables.
THE BEER SECTION:
Best Beer (Quality vs. Price):
Dieu du Ciel
There's just no competition here. I think there used to be a special here on glasses and pints at happy hour, but now everything's regular price all the time. Maybe I just imagined the discount because I always left so happy. So many delicious Belgians. Better on tap than from one of the fine Montreal depanneurs that sell the DdeC bottles.
Why? Tasting quartet of the house options for under $10. They do fancy food stuff too - gastropub-y options - but it's discovering the the Petite-Cote (a Kolsh-style German blonde), the Succursale (amber, caramel-y), the Blanche (it'll make you cry for summer, but maybe you're not as emotional as I am. Many a strong beer-drinker has fallen victim to a good blanche, though), and the Angus IP "AAA" (IPA to the max - beefy, I guess, is a decent way to describe it).
Le Cheval Blanc
You know this is a friendly place to come for beer because their website cheers-es you when you enter. Super bitter, dark India Noire Harvest or fruit sour cherry porter. Plus savoury popcorn for $2.50 - definitely the cheapest brewpub snack around 2nd to Les Trois Brasseurs' free peanuts.
Best Gastro-Beer (Non-divey with food):
Reservoir is a packed restaurant at lunch, dinner, and brunch, but come 5pm you can actually snag a table at this cosy nook on Duluth. It's also a micro-brewery, which is unique for an upscale kind of place, and starting at 5 each day there's very affordable snack menu to go with your pint: fries with horseradish sauce ($4), grilled cheese sandwich with gruyÃ¨re, apple butter, and marinated onions ($7 - add $1.50 for extra lard...) Perfect with a pint of Noire (barley and coffee) or the bitter, malty and fruit-finished Scotch Ale.
FOR THE SERIOUS DRINKER
My Irish Roommate's Favourite Place to Drink like an Irishman (Best Irish Pub Happy Hour):
On Crescent, he votes for the Irish Embassy or Hurley's. I remember him coming back pretty happy from a good few nights at those. But he also says they're kind of expensive for a pint, which is "very important to an Irish room mate, though its easy staggering distance home."
Honey Martin's on Sherbrooke was his best pint of Guinness in Montreal, he says, noting that they also have Smithwicks, a "nice red Irish beer".
My Irish Roommate's Favourite Place to Drink (Best Cheap Beer and Music):
Keeping in mind the distance/price rule of my Irish roommate's drinking experience, he says he likes Piranha Bar on Ste-Catherine by the Eaton Centre. It's a dive, but there's cheap beer (often 2-for-1 Tremblay during the hockey games) and loud, energetic music - anything from punk and rockabilly to metal and goth.
On another music-related note, his favourite bar in general is Foufounes Electriques since the beer is ridiculously cheap always and the sound system is class.
FOR THE DRINKING MULTITASKER
Best Place to Pick Up a MusiquePlus VJ:
$4.75 pints of Belle Guelle, Cheval Blanc and the house beer from 4pm-7pm Monday to Friday. It's also a good after-concert place to go. Might work out for you better than it did for me. At least I have the memories AND at least there was good beer involved. That's the less sappy way to say I support this place and its pick-up power.
Best Romantic Happy Hour:
La Buvette Chez Simone
It's kind of impossible to see the sign for this place, so just go into the place on avenue du Parc with the full tables and happily drinking and eating people. Affordable (good) food, affordable (very good) wine, a packed house, and ambiance to boot.
The Burgundy Lion
Whoa, whoa, whoa. That's a rowdy pub, right? It's all about the timing. Turns out they do a respectable, bring your parents-type brunch on the weekends where pints are encouraged, and the place turns into a mad house in the evening, but around 5pm it's a relatively calm, post-work or post-class beer/date spot. Expect a waiting list for a table and a very friendly crowd at the bar. Hey, if your date doesn't work out...
Best. Cheap. Date. Ever. (aka nachos and beer):
Maybe not everyone's best date ever, but you know she or he is a keeper!
Student-friendly, vegetarian, sometimes organic bar and restaurant with floor cushions, rugs, and quasi-bedding that desperately needs a washing machine. Live music most nights with free cover - just what every UQAM student wants. What more could you ask for? Oh, cheap beer. Yeah, they have that. Nachos? They have those too.
Best Fancy Hotel Bar and Celebrity-Watching Happy Hour:
The Hyatt Regency
You generally wouldn't think of going to a hotel bar for a night out, but come summer, especially in Just for Laughs season, the Hyatt Regency Bar is the place to be. Mostly it gets hopping late at night, but the drinks are potent, fancy, and expensive at all hours (thus delicious). It's worth it for the free flaxseed-studded super salty crackers that are impossible to stop shoveling into your mouth. One drink here and I spent the whole evening wondering why my head hurt but also being amazed at how delicious Chambord and Prosecco are together. Chic-chic? Yes, but if the crackers don't do it for you, the service will. But seriously, who isn't sold on the crackers? Oh, and the celebrities. I met a comedian in an elevator here once. It went a little something like this:
So I get into the elevator up to main lobby from the entrance in the parking garage with this guy with a guitar on his back. Like two polite total strangers we awkwardly avoid eye contact for the excruciatingly long one-floor trip. Since he has a guitar I think about starting a conversation because he's clearly from out of town and probably a nice person, what with being a musician and all, but then I remember that I'm polite and Canadian and it's my job to keep my mouth shut and follow elevator etiquette rules and not disturb anyone in the slightest. That is, until he mumbles something unintelligible and we get into one of those conversations that have clearly started but neither person knows if those were actual words or some strange sort of strangling/throat-clearing, and neither person involved knows where to take it. Anyway, much foot-in-mouth-putting later, he turns out to be a comedian and he was probably so embarassed about the throat-clearing start to the conversation that he gives me two free tickets to his comedy show later that night. Which just goes to show...well, I suppose it just goes to show that even awkward people have good things happen to them all the time, and sometimes those things happen at the Hyatt Regency bar or elevator. Your choice. And odds are you're less stupid than me, and as my mom would say: "Stupider people than you have done it." So go drink an $11 cocktail and stumble upon some celebrities.
Oh, and they have a gorgeous outdoor terrasse that makes you feel like a rockstar even though you didn't just meet one in the elevator.
Where: 1429a rue Bishop
When: Mon-Thurs 9am-1am, Fri 9am-3am, Sat noon-3am, Sun noon-6pm
Where: 327 Mont-Royal East
When: Daily 3pm-3am
Where: 300 Ontario East, 2047 Mont-Royal East, 2656 rue Masson
When: Daily 4pm-3am
514-288-7915, 514-523-8166, 514-528-9846
Where: 355 rue Marguerite d'Youville
When: Lounge open Tues-Thurs 5pm-10:30pm, Fri 5pm-11:30pm, Sat 6pm-11:30pm
Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins
Address: 4807 boul. st-laurent
When: Daily 5pm-midnight, lunch Tues-Fri noon-2pm, brunch Sun 10:30am-2pm
Where 5245 boul. st-laurent
When: Daily 5pm-midnight
Dieu du Ciel
Where: 29 Laurier West
When: Daily 1pm-3am
Where: 3188 rue Masson
When: Mon-Tues 3pm-1am, Wed-Thurs 3pm-3am, Fri-Sat 1pm-3am, Sun 1pm-1am
Le Cheval Blanc
Where: 80 rue Ontario East
When: Mon-Sat from 3pm, Sun from 5pm
Where: 9 Duluth East
When: Mon from 3pm, Tues-Fri from noon, Sat-Sun from 10:30am
Where: 1225 rue Crescent
The Irish Embassy Pub & Grill
Where: 1234 rue Bishop
Le Piranha Bar
Where: 680 Ste-Catherine West
Address: 87 Ste-Catherine East
When: Daily 4pm-3am
Where: 1250 Bleury
La Buvette Chez Simone
Where: 4869 avenue du Parc
When: Daily from 4pm
The Burgundy Lion
Where: 2496 rue Notre-Dame west
When: Mon-Fri 11:30am-3am, Sat-Sun 9am-3am
Where: 522 Ste-Catherin East
The Hyatt Regency SIX Resto-Lounge
Where: 1255 rue Jeanne-Mance
When: Daily from noon