Calgary Cocktails: The Best Cocktail Bars in Calgary’s Downtown Core

The cocktail scene has long been a highlight of Calgary’s bustling downtown core and these downtown hot spots have taken the craft of the cocktail to the next level. We Explore Canada contributor Kayla Glynn gives us the inside scoop.

Cocktail Bars in Calgary
People don’t realize just how many different cocktails are on offer in Downtown Calgary! Photo Credit: Unsplash

There’s no shortage of ways to spend a weekend in Calgary, Alberta – the province’s largest city. With the stunning Rocky Mountains to the west, expansive inner city public green spaces, and a thriving urban art and cultural scene, this city is sure to keep you busy every time you visit! 

Calgarians know there’s no better way to recharge from all that adventure than to delight in a great cocktail, and there’s no better place to do it than Downtown. 

Downtown Calgary’s cocktail venues are no longer just a place to get an expensive drink. From the ambiance, to the decor, to the menu, to the glassware – this cocktail scene invites you to step off the busy streets and into carefully crafted, fully-immersive, and sometimes unexpected experiences. 

With so many sensational venues to get a drink, where should you start?

Here are our picks for the best cocktail bars that Calgary has to offer:

Downtown Calgary Cocktail Bars to Have on Your Radar

Calgary nightlife
Calgary’s nightlife is much too underrated. Photo Credit: Unsplash

Orchard Restaurant

When you walk through the front doors of Orchard Restaurant, located just south of Downtown in Calgary’s premier luxury residential project known as “SODO”, the first thing you’ll notice is plants. So many plants. Looking up, you’ll see a tapestry of hanging greenery decorating lofty ceilings, leafy vines trailing and curling around tall wooden shelves, interspersed with glamorous, sparkling chandeliers that give the whole space a romantic, luxurious, secret garden feel. Orchard describes itself as “Calgary’s vibrant destination for Asian Mediterranean dining” and oozes casual elegance. 

The thoughtful attention to detail is what makes this place particularly special. Rustic gold accents (right down to golden spoons, forks, metal straws, and delicate gold napkin rings) make Orchard feel somehow both opulent and laid-back. 

This is the cocktail spot for you if you like your cocktails both simple and intriguing. Orchard’s cocktail menu features six “light” and six “dark” creations, and features unique ingredients like plum wine, watermelon shrub, and smoked anise. 

Cocktail Highlight(s):

From the “light” menu, we loved the “Sunset Hurricane” – sweet rum and banana liquor paired with refreshing guava and melon, served in a tall glass complete with gold straw and a flaming lime. 

From the “dark” selections, try “The Sea People”. It’s not easy to incorporate salty, savoury aquavit into an approachable cocktail, but Orchard has done it – pairing tart watermelon shrub and earthy spices to balance the aquavit’s complex flavour.

Lulu Bar

Lulu (as in “Honolulu”) is a lively, “tiki-but-make-it-Southeast-Asian-fusion” restaurant in the heart of 17th Avenue SW – Calgarians’ long time favourite nightlife strip. 

Lulu Bar is an “industrial-style locale serving Asian-fusion cuisine”, making it the most unique stop on this popular downtown Calgary street. As well as beer, wine, and cider, Lulu Bar boasts a refreshingly playful cocktail menu that lean heavily into the delightful contrast of tiki drinks and Asian Fusion. It features spirited reimaginings of tiki classics like frozen cocktails and mai tais, while other creations introduce surprising ingredients like togarashi, sesame, and tonka bean. Lulu clearly believes that novelty cups aren’t just for kids – the “Bobcat” and the “Cougar” both come served in adorable “maneki-neko” shaped glasses, more widely as the Japanese “lucky cat”. 

Lulu Bar’s bite-sized fare and easy-going cocktails will whisk you away on a tropical vacation, pull out a poolside chair for you, and have you feeling like the only work you’ve got to do is on your tan. 

Cocktail Highlight:

The “King Kona” – If you didn’t know you needed your summer frozen ice coffee blended with coconut and coffee rum, served in a giant ceramic tiki head, well, now you do.

Ten Foot Henry

Nestled in the heart of Calgary’s Beltline district, Ten Foot Henry feels a little bit bistro, a little bit swanky, and a whole lot of cool. The rustic accents and hanging plants add cozy charm to the modern white walls and minimalist decor of this cocktail spot. 

Ten Foot Henry, whose name is an ode to a 10-ft tall wooden cutout of a Calgary comic strip legend of the same name, offers a “vegetable-anchored menu” of luxurious tapas, a curated wine menu, and a cocktail menu that changes seasonally. In case you need a change of pace, they also offer an impressive cellar of hard-to-find reserve wines by the bottle

Ten Foot Henry’s refined service, high-end spirits and cheeky cocktail offerings like the “Benedict Cucumberbatch” are mainstays of this quirky and trendy hotspot. They also offer a family friendly brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 11am-2pm.

Cocktail Highlight:

The sweet and spicy “Chai One On” masterfully combines creamy, decadent flavours with complex chai spices for a cocktail that is intriguing and comforting all at once, making it the perfect cocktail for a mid-evening pick-me-up.


Best Calgary Cocktails
This one’s for you, Monday! Photo Credit: Unplash

The Wednesday Room

The best way to describe just how cool this place is would be this quote straight from The Wednesday Room themselves: “A space reminiscent of a sophisticated 60’s lounge and your uncle’s eclectic basement (don’t lie, you know exactly which uncle).” 

This elegantly whimsical speakeasy-meets-vintage-living room is one of the coziest, grooviest places to grab a cocktail in the heart of downtown Calgary. It’s easy to forget the outside world here. The plush velvet couches, low cocktail tables, and dim orange lighting sets the mood, transporting you to another decade entirely. The bar service at The Wednesday Room is nothing short of phenomenal, and they are quick to suggest their favourites or create that bespoke, off-menu cocktail you’ve been craving. 

The Wednesday Room’s cocktail menu leans into their decade-hopping vibes, with cocktails named for cult classic films from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Whether you’re looking for sweet, complex, boozy, or nostalgic, this menu has something for everyone. 

Cocktail Highlight:

We loved the Mayhem” (Dazed and Confused) – featuring a sweet and spicy pairing of cachaça, mezcal, lime, pineapple, coconut, and Smoke & Oak Bitters.

El Furniture Warehouse

If you need a reprieve from the trendy, upscale nightlife of Calgary’s downtown, El Furniture Warehouse will welcome you with open arms. More fun than fancy, El Furniture Warehouse is located on trendy Stephen Avenue (8th Avenue SW) just down the street from The Wednesday Room. 

The bright neon lights of the El Furniture Warehouse sign makes it easy to find and the upbeat, jovial atmosphere makes it even easier to have a good time. Their signature soft tacos and street food inspired noodle dishes elevate the concept of pub fare and give them their “premium dive bar” reputation.

The cocktails you’ll find here are simple and friendly, but big on flavour and character, making this a perfect place for cocktail enthusiasts to take pub-going friends for a night out that offers something for everyone. 

Cocktail Highlight:

It’s impossible not to smile drinking a cocktail named “The Floor is Guava” (a gin-based refresher with guava, kiwi bitters and soda) and the “Hendrick Lamar” (with Hendrick’s Gin, of course, and pineapple, cucumber, citrus and mint). These light, fruity and playful drinks are the perfect palate cleanser between Calgary’s upscale cocktail bars.

Shelter

Possibly one of the most intriguing bars in Calgary, Shelter is an absolute must see. Inconspicuously tucked into a dark alcove with minimal signage, its dark, intense atmosphere makes it a perfect last stop of the night or a refuge from the bustling streets of downtown Calgary. 

Shelter is so intimate, it feels like a juicy secret, best shared between hushed voices and sideways glances. It boasts an eerie but beautifully crafted light fixture made from over 5000 individually hung light bulbs. The art that adorns the walls is hauntingly beautiful, including a gas mask wall and Victorian inspired paintings that, upon further inspection, appear not to have eyes or mouths. 

This modern speakeasy has a couple house rules worth noting – mainly, no reservations, no flash photography, and maybe most importantly, “don’t invite anyone to SHELTER you wouldn’t bring to your mother’s house for Sunday dinner”. This macabre but welcoming hideaway is the perfect pairing of dark artistry and humble atmosphere, inviting you to shelter away from life’s chaos and get intimate. 

Shelter’s talented bartenders craft pre-prohibition era cocktails using cutting edge mixing technology, offering cocktails that are “fruity/playful”, “botanical/fresh”, or “dark/boozy” with clever names like “The Dogfather” and “Who The F*ck Is Polina?”.

Cocktail Highlight:

Our favourite is the “Doris In The Sky With Rainbows” – a floral, Botanist gin based cocktail featuring cynar (artichoke) liqueur, strawberry lavender shrub, mint, and beets.

That’s a Wrap on Where to Find Some Great Calgary Cocktails

Calgary Cocktails
What’re you’re looking for in the world of cocktails, Calgary has you covered. Photo Credit: Unsplash

After your action-packed days exploring all that Calgary and the Rockies have to offer, you’ll find a delightful respite from reality with these cocktail bar experiences. Their dedication to creating an immersive experience make them our picks for the best cocktail spots to choose from in Downtown Calgary, Alberta.

Do you have a favourite Calgary cocktail? What’s your ultimate Downtown Calgary respite after a day of adventure? Feel free to comment below!


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