Meet the Bartender: John Bunner of Alo Restaurant, Toronto

John Bunner is behind the bar at Alo, Toronto’s hottest high-end dining restaurant, located on the second floor of the heritage building on the south-east corner of Queen and Spadina. The restaurant has quickly gained recognition for its ode to French cuisine, a modern take on fine dining, and its tasting menus.

We talked with John about his drinks menu, how he spends his time when he’s not at Alo, and his favorite places in Toronto.

What’s your speciality at your bar?

Alo’s bar —adjacent to the restaurant— is a classic cocktail bar that features an à la carte menu of small plates from Alo’s celebrated kitchen. (examples: foie gras mousse with pomegranate and toast or crispy pork belly with chili and cilantro).

Our speciality is the Armagnac Old Fashioned. Armagnac is Cognac’s rustic older cousin. It has sharp elbows that punch through the bitters and sugar as a whisky does. It’s built in the glass and brought to temperature with a single hand-cut rock of ice.

When you’re not on bar duty, where are you hanging out in Toronto?

When the summer weather’s fine, my wife and I take our two small children down to the beaches. It’s a treat to live a stroll down the hill from that area of town. If it’s exceedingly hot or rainy, we’ll go to the Royal Ontario Museum. That’s a magical place for kids to roam about. As a plus,  it has air conditioning for the parents!

What’s your favorite neighborhood in Toronto?

My favorite Toronto neighborhood is, I think, Leslieville. It has all one expects from a big city, but with a small town, family-friendly vibe. There are nice streets to walk along, a farmers’ market, a good fishmonger, and more. My ideal Leslieville tour might start with a pint and oysters at the Ceili Cottage, then an espresso at Boxcar Social. I’d enjoy a bottle of wine and a plate of pasta at Ascari Enoteca and cap off the night with a cocktail at the prettiest bar around, the Comrade.

What’s your favorite secret spot in Toronto?

I love the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto (a clandestine spot beside U of T’s Robarts Library at St. George and Hoskins Avenue). It’s an incredible room that suggests something of the sacred. Though access to the books is tight, there’s usually a public exhibition worth checking out.

If you were to Uber in one place in Toronto, where would it be and why?

The one place I would Uber to is home. As someone who works downtown but lives way out in the east end, it can be difficult to get home at night via public transit (TTC) as my only option.

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