During Prohibition, the US saw more than its fair share of speakeasies and alcohol for these joints was smuggled across the border courtesy of Canada (American friends, you are welcome!). Secret knocks, secret doors, secret handshakes and having to “know” someone was all part and parcel of trying to get a drink! How lucky we were north of the border not to have to go through all that as our attempt at prohibition years earlier failed after a brief trial.
Montreal was a great supplier of alcohol on the north-south route. On a recent trip to Montreal, we managed to find the secret door and stepped into The Cloakroom Bar. A Prohibition-style speakeasy in Montreal (and you know how much we like our speakeasies!)
The Maison Cloakroom group is located in a stunning building just south of Sherbrooke Street on 2175 Rue de la Montaigne.
Now I have to admit that finding it was a little tricky. This hidden gem shares space with a bespoke tailor shop, which offers custom made-to-measure suits and shirts, as well as a barber shop.
The tailor shop and barber shop are easy to find; the bar, well let’s just say that Pete and I did a lot of puzzled walking around before we were rescued and escorted into The Cloakroom.
The room itself is quite small, a mere 25 seats, but the bar is spectacular! Bottle after bottle line the walls waiting to be chosen. The room looks larger than it is due to the mirrored walls behind the bar, but don’t be fooled. They don’t allow groups of over 6 unless you are renting out the whole bar. (The marble topped bar would have been the best place to sit and watch all the goings on, but sadly it was (understandably) fully occupied.)
You take a seat. There is no drink menu. Instead your server comes over to talk to you. “What do you like?” they ask. “What is your base spirit? Bourbon? Gin? Rye? Scotch? Vodka? Do you like an alcohol-forward drink? A tall drink? Fruity?”
Once you answer the questions, the server leaves your table. Consultation with the bartender occurs and a drink is created for your drinking pleasure. Everything is made from fresh ingredients. The ice is from large trays, not ice machines. (See cocktail below for the enormous cube!)
The signature drinks on the whole are throwbacks to the late 19th century and early 20th century, but they will also put twists on more modern cocktails. This was evidenced as I was served a riff on The Paper Plane, made with Johnny Walker Black and Pete had an old school drink, “La Louisiane”, which is considered the secret drink of New Orleans
Head Bartender and Co-Owner, Andrew Whibley, created this bar based on bars in London and New York. Most nights he is there behind his bar creating the cocktails
You really do feel like you are back in Prohibiton times in this secret spot.
Australian friends and visitors, there is a sister Cloakroom in Brisbane offering bespoke suits and craft cocktails.
Pete remarked how dangerous it might be to live near The Cloakroom in Montreal. “You go in for a shave, maybe a cocktail or two, and next thing you know you are buying a custom-made suit.”
While that might be true, I just can’t wait until we go back the Cloakroom!
Where: 2175 Rue de la Montagne, Montréal, Quebec; When: Sunday: 5 pm – 1 am, Monday – Wednesda: 3 pm – 1 am, Thursday – Saturday: 3 pm – 3 am