Sweetness: The Lockhart, Toronto (AKA The Harry Potter Bar)

The downsides to being one of the last people in the western world to read the Harry Potter books are numerous—I knew how the books ended long before I’d started reading them, I spent years of my life confused by Halloween costumes that featured people drawing lightning bolts on their heads, and I just genuinely did not understand cultural references that seemed to be in a different language. The one upside is that by the time I’d finally read all the books (at the ripe age of 25), I was old enough to appreciate that butterbeer likely had some sort of alcohol in it, and it would be one of my life’s missions to find butterbeer in real life. And drink it.

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So, last fall, when I saw a number of articles about the “Harry Potter Bar” in Toronto, a city that had started to really fascinate me, I knew I’d need to book a trip. The Internet warned me that there would be an insanely long line for this tiny, intimate bar, but on the night my companion and I ventured into The Lockhart on a Sunday evening, we were among the first customers.

At first glance, The Lockhart seems like another small, hip bar with a somewhat obscure sounding name and a list of achingly trendy cocktails. But when you pass through the thick, velvet curtains (presumably there to block the draft from the very, very cold Toronto nights, but which lend an air of magic to your entrance into the bar), a closer look reveals a series of Harry Potter references that true fans/series devotees will catch, including, but not limited to: the words “Potions and Elxirs” are painted on the exposed brick wall above the bar, on one side of the bar is “Platform 9 ¾” sign, and the the name itself is a reference to a character from the books, the stag’s head bar logo, and cocktails like “The Befuddlement Draft” hint at the books (as well as what will happen to you once you’ve finished the drink). And the greatest touch of all–the words “All Was Well” hang on the wall in the form of a fluorescent lit sign (a reference to the last words of the last book in the series).

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Butterbeer (Left) and a Befuddlement Draft (Right)

We ordered the Befuddlement Draft, which includes a flaming shot and though it says it’s for 2 people, could easily serve 3-4. It was very strong. And very good. Though not listed on the menu, you can order butterbeer as an off menu item, and I have to say that this is exactly the butterbeer I’d imagined when reading J.K. Rowling’s words (we have an adequate option in Seattle, but still, The Lockhart’s is the best I’ve had). The bartenders are friendly, if slightly bemused by the presence of adults who (myself included) spend inordinate amounts of time photographing every aspect of their visit to The Lockhart. And even if you’re not a huge fan of the books, the drinks are strong and the atmosphere and music are a perfect place for a drink or two with someone special.

We visited the bar just a few days after the death of Alan Rickman (who played Severus Snape in the film adaptations of the series), and touching tributes to Snape/Alan Rickman were written all across the chalkboard walls that line the hallway to the bathroom (the bathrooms themselves are also worth a visit).

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On the blisteringly cold walk back from the bar to my hotel, along crooked streets lined with tidy, two-story brick homes, I was reminded of 4 Privet Drive and all the magic that started there for a young Harry. And even though I’m neither young nor a wizard, an evening spent in a place with such a playful spirit (combined with a healthy dose of butterbeer) lent a little bit of magic to my ordinary muggle life.

The Lockhart
http://www.thelockhart.ca
1479 DUNDAS STREET WEST, TORONTO, ON, M6J 1Y8, CANADA

Sweetness: Adult Beverages

I was late to the Harry Potter phenomenon. How late? Late enough that third to last movie was in dollar theaters by the time I laid my 25-year-old mitts on the final book. But I devoured the books with the intensity of every other self-respecting person in the Western world and enjoyed every moment of them.

Any of my friends will tell you that I am a tough sell on fantasy and science fiction–I need books that take flights of fancy but are ultimately grounded in the world around me. So, J.K. Rowling’s mix of muggles and magic appealed to me on many levels. And I was positive that the inspiration for butterbeer had to be rooted in a real life drink.

In the past several years, I’ve made more than a few sickeningly sweet and borderline disgusting (nope, not even borderline, just flat out gross) variations of butterbeer…always so, so disappointed. Until last night.

A couple of friends and I popped into Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery in Ballard. It’s a tiny, dimly lit shop that smells like sugar and butter and chocolate. It’s the kind of place that seems tailor made for the cold, bleak, gray days that span the months of November through July in Seattle. And they serve butterbeer. Theirs is a heady mixture of Butterscotch, apple cider, ginger, and sparkling wine. It was warm and frothy, and delicious. And for this adult Harry Potter fan? A downright magical concoction.

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