Known as Toronto’s coolest neighbourhood, Queen Street West – or Queen West to its ultra-hip patrons – is the creative hub of the city: a lively two-kilometre strip packed with galleries, must-visit restaurants, fashion stores and boutique hotels, it is a major tourist attraction in the southwest quadrant of the Ontarian capital.
Tucked amid this artistic enclave is the welcoming and incredibly funky BYOB Cocktail Emporium – Toronto’s first and finest one-stop shop for all things linked to drinks and cocktails, and a veritable goldmine for bar keeps and servers seeking that something extra special – and unique – for work. Opened in 2011 by Kristen Voisey, an alumnus of Ryerson University’s Hospitality and Tourism Management course at the Ted Rogers School, BYOB is the culmination of Voisey’s years spent collecting vintage glassware, and past work restoring unloved cabinetry into mini-bars as hobbies, combined with hospitality nous gained grafting in hotels, on cruise ships and worked at events such as TIFF (the annual Toronto International Film Festival).
The spark for the idea of BYOB came while Voisey was spending time in Los Angeles and spotted a store called Barkeeper, which does the whole vintage glassware thing to a tee. Still, the Emporium is very much unique amongst Toronto establishments. A reflection of its owner: her passions – especially for tiki, fine bitters, and home bars – are clearly evident among the stylish décor and conceptualization. With much love and attention, she went into the space the shop occupies. And the acronym? According to Voisey, BYOB has several meanings: Bring Your Own Booze, Build Your Own Bar, or Be Your Own Bartender. In short: the store has everything you will ever need, except the alcohol.
YOB has been described as a ‘Toys R Us for grownups’, with an impressively colossal selection – Canada’s largest – of quality bitters, flavoured syrups, and antique glassware loading sizeable shelves, while for a ‘difficult’ friend’s birthday or a hard-to-impress bartender there is a vast amount of bar knick-knacks, equipment, books and gifts to choose from, looking for those must-have Japanese-made bar stools, or that rare absinthe fountain? They’re here. Add to these a raft of beer brewing kits, in-flight cocktail kits, watermelon kegs and, of course, bespoke mini-bars refurbished by Voisey herself, along with everything you could ever need to make the perfect cocktail, and BYOB is the place to go for bartending supplies in Toronto.
Such is the BYOB Cocktail Emporium’s success that it has recently opened a second sister store in the nearby Kensington neighbourhood: the ‘1/2 oz. Cocktail Emporium’ (a humorous nod to the fact it is smaller than BYOB) bears Voisey’s trademark cool design and stock quality.
BYOB Cocktail Emporium
972 Queen St. W. Toronto, ON M6J 1H1
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11:00am – 7:00pm Sunday: 12:00pm – 7:00pm
1/2 oz. Cocktail Emporium
20 Kensington Ave. Toronto, ON M5T 2J7
Hours: Sunday – Friday: 11:30am – 7:00pm Saturday: 11:00am – 7:00pm