BYOB Cocktail Emporium

BYOB Cocktail Emporium

Kristen Voisey owns and operates BYOB Cocktail Emporium, Toronto’s veritable playground for cocktail enthusiasts. Since 2011, BYOB has cultivated a loyal fan base of bartenders, restaurateurs, chefs and amateur mixologists by stocking anything you could ever need to accessorize the perfect cocktail.

Originally from Newfoundland, shop owner Kristen is as cool as they come. With a background in hospitality and tourism management, Kristen has worked in hotels, cruise ships and with the Toronto International Film Festival. Surprisingly, she’s never worked behind the wood, but as she says, “has spent plenty of time on the other side. You can learn a lot there, too.” Amen to that.

Kristen was kind enough to host the ORGNL.TV team in BYOB and we can’t say enough about the place. The store is a booze mecca – its gorgeously-conceptualized walls hold all the necessary ingredients to experiment with at-home mixology.

The BYOB shopping experience is complemented by Kristen’s unique aesthetic, fantastic music selection, overall welcoming vibes and shelves upon shelves of the world’s coolest barware. Once we saw the line of gold coupe glassware, the Stoli team was ready to move in.

We sat down with Kristen to learn about BYOB’s origin story and to pick her brain on the latest cocktail trends shaping how Torontonians drink.


“I have a place to be creative every day; a place where I can talk about and drink cocktails. It's ideal. Also, helping people to make better drinks is important.”

BYOB can stand for bring your own booze, build your own bar, or be your own bartender.

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.
Tell us about your store.

BYOB is Toronto's only cocktail store. We stock everything you could ever need to make cocktails, including more than 100 flavours of bitters (Canada's largest selection), lots of syrups, bar tools and glassware. We carry anything to do with booze – from coasters, beer kits, and wine accessories to books, absinthe fountains… you name it.

BYOB can stand for bring your own booze, build your own bar, or be your own bartender.

How did BYOB come to life?

When I started out, I wanted to make a line of minibars for condos. I designed a few models and had others refurbished into bars using old TVs and cabinets. Then I started collecting vintage glassware. Before I knew it, my parents’ basement was FULL with the stuff. We called it the Mad Lab. The general concept for BYOB came to me while in Los Angeles; I saw a store in Silverlake called "Bar Keeper" which sold glassware and bar tools. Toronto didn’t have anything close to that, and I knew that a cocktail emporium would be great for the city. As a result, BYOB opened in April 2011.

How do you incorporate your personal taste in the store?

The great thing about owning a store is that my personal taste is incorporated in every detail. I’m obsessed with the style of past decades – the vintage glassware we have ranges from art deco, the disco era, prohibition era, 1950s midcentury, 70s and even the 80s. My house is very similar to the store in that my bar is art deco, my living room is influenced by the 1970s, the kitchen is Scandinavian meets America Southwest, the bedroom has a vintage magic carpet theme and the spare room is tropical theme. There’s definitely something for everyone.

I have literally handpicked all the vintage items and sometimes I know a piece will sell, but I personally don't like it, so I won’t bring it in the store. The money isn’t worth me having to look at it (laughs). The same goes for new products as well.

What are your favourite trends in the cocktail scene right now?

I am really digging tiki! Tiki was big during midcentury America and then it died off. Now it’s big again and it’s amazing. Fun, kitschy, colorful glassware, fresh juices, beautiful garnishes, delicious drinks, hula girls. It’s a real escape from the everyday. Most tiki bars don’t even have windows so that the outside world feels totally blocked off.

Another Trend I’ve noticed (especially in Europe) is intense attention to detail. Cocktail menus are morphing into actual books of art; every drink has its own special vessel, garnishes are becoming so creative and colorful, drink coasters are personalized, and the list goes on. It’s really fun to see the creative personal touches each bar adds its cocktails.

I’ll give you an example. When you order a drink at Hemingway Bar in Prague, the bartender gives you an empty glass with an ice chunk. When you ask where your drink is, you’re presented with a book. When you open it up, you see a glass flask where your drink is preprared and you pour into your own glass. SO FUN.

Show us your three favourite/coolest items in the store.

- Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds

- Japanese Copper Shaker

- Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bourbon Barrel Aged Bitters

- Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup

- Travel Pack Vintage Whiskey Set

- Japanese Stallion Cocktail Pick

- Gold Rim Coupe

If you could only play three albums in BYOB for the rest of time, which would you play?

- Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career. Customers always ask who’s playing when this is on.

- The Territory Bands 1935-1937. This album makes you feel like you’re in a speakeasy during prohibition.

- The Elvis Presley Story - His hit recording from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

What's the worst advice you've ever received?

My mom told me she didn't think that I’d need a website. Haha. Love her.

What's the most gratifying part of your career?

The best part is that I have a place to be creative every day; a place where I can talk about and drink cocktails. It's ideal. Also, helping people make better drinks is important. (laughs)



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Article by Stoli Canada

Photography by Jeremy Elliott



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