blogTO: Cocktail Emporium

blogTO: Cocktail Emporium

"Cocktail Emporium in Kensington Market is a lively and colourful space glowing with a vintage Miami vibe. The store is a fun little wonderland where you can venture to get your creative cocktail juices flowing. This is a place for people who love the art of crafting a good drink.

Kristen Voisey owns Cocktail Emporium and its counterpart BYOB on West Queen West. You can find her chatting with customers and giving them advice on which bitters enhance a given cocktail. "Cherry bitters and orange bitters can go along way," she tells a customer looking to spice up her rum drinks.

Voisey's concept for Cocktail Emporium was to create a one-stop shop for everything drink and cocktail related, whether you're a seasoned aficionado or total novice. Maybe you didn't even know that you could add cardamom or celery flavour to your drink.

Well, you can, via a well-stocked dispensary of bitters displayed on a shelf at the front of the store. Bitters range from $10-$22.95.  The best-selling item in the store is the Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic Syrup ($19.95).

Cocktail accessories and bitters are great for gifting. That's what I'm thinking as I lazily glide through the entirety of the store, getting absorbed in the different items, tools, vintage glassware and coasters available.

In addition to the various cocktail accessories on the shelves, they also carry niche products like absinthe fountains, beer-making kits and turkey leg pint glasses — everything you didn't know you wanted, until it was an option.

Voisey calls the Cocktail Emporium the ½ oz since it's smaller than the Queen location. At the new location, the aim is to focus on vintage glassware ($6-$25) and unique items.

BYOB offers high-end items like Japanese-made bar tools, according to Voisey. In Kensington, she's just "having fun with it."

"The neighborhood is so creative and diverse that we'll likely allow the clientele to dictate the direction we ultimately take," says Voisey.

So, why open a second store? "I had a conversation with Heather Reisman (CEO of Indigo) and she told me, "If you can have two stores you can have fifty... It was the logical next step for a retail business, and the second location happened really fast. One day we were walking around Kensington and happened to look into the window of an empty building. We signed the rental agreement the next day!"

Three weeks later, the new location was open.

Be prepared to find something quirky for everyone. Watermelon Keg ($19.95) and bamboo straws for tiki and rum lovers, small batch tonics and lavender bitters for gin lovers, and in-flight cocktail kits ($26) for everyone else."

-Lori Harito
August 11, 2015