How to Drink in Saskatoon

In the effort to help everyone drink better, we launched this monthly feature. The idea is to help as you navigate new cities in this world by learning how to drink in that city. We are talking: what to order, what neighbourhoods to visit, how to get around, what hours you can drink and everything in between. This month we hit: Saskatoon, a city in one of the Prairie provinces in Canada.

If you are travelling across Canada, either for work or pleasure, it’s time to stop skipping over Saskatoon and start making it an extended pit stop or destination. We will, however, understand if you only call during the winter season, but we fully expect you to visit come summer. We aren’t that awkward uncle you avoid who brings out his shotgun after a couple beers anymore; we are the other uncle, the one who’s got tasty beef jerky from last year’s hunt and hooch that actually tastes good! We’ve become fun!

Saskatoon’s food and beverage scene has grown up and is now in its teenage years. Kyle and Christie (owners of the Hollows and Primal) were arguably the two who began Saskatoon’s changing of guard when it came to how and what Saskatoon ate. (We all know once you taste better food, you also want better drinks.) They were the first to truly do farm-to-table and paired it with curated wine and a cocktail menu. Back in 2011, Saskatoon was mostly filled with chain restaurants, pubs, and dancehall style night clubs. A lot has changed since then: gone are all but three of the night clubs, and local establishments dominate chain ones. We still have some old school legit spots, but the tide has certainly shifted in the past ten years.

What to Drink
Saskatoon has and always will be a beer city. We have over a dozen craft breweries in the city and many pubs/restaurants that brew their own beer. We also have three distilleries that are all creating wonderful products for everyone to enjoy and bartenders to mix up. Our provincial liquor laws allows booze to be sold until 3am via retail outlets, making it easy for anyone to get anything they need when thirsty.

Should you desire to sit down and have someone take care of all your taste bud needs, we’ve got you covered for that too. In order to sell alcohol within Saskatchewan one must also offer food, meaning almost all watering holes are restaurant-focused to some degree. Luckily for us and you, preference has shifted to tapas and snacking style options, allowing some establishments to open that are more booze-focused than food. We are fortunate to be able to infuse, age, make our own bitters, liqueurs, etc. We are kind of the Wild West when it comes to what is and isn’t allowed. So you may be surprised at what your bartender has up their sleeve.

Popular Drinks
IPAs and Pilsners are what’s craved when it comes to beer, with sours recently coming on strong. You can find rotating local seasonal taps at many Saskatoon bars. If not, that’s a good sign you should jump to your next stop.

When it comes to cocktails, Saskatoon guests and bartenders love the Old Fashioned. Every bar has their own spin and every bartender has their personal arsenal of creations. You will also see a lot of sours on menus around town, often using local and creative ingredients for their syrups. Locals go to for shot; well, that’s been Jameson for a long time now and probably won’t be changing anytime soon. So if someone says “Shots!” and you find one in your hand, it’s almost certainly that Irish whiskey.

Regular Drinking Hours and Buying Booze
Legally, you can purchase alcohol from retail establishments between the hours of 9:30am and 3am. Recently, the government allowed for private liquor stores, giving us a wider range of options.

You can purchase alcohol from a restaurant or bar between the hours of 10 am and 2 am. It’s not uncommon to see people enjoying a Caesar with their breakfast or purchasing a 24 pack of beer at 2:59 am. I don’t like to say we are a city that likes to drink, but we certainly are a city that can drink.

Price per drink
The following is a rough estimate:

Cocktails $10-$16 Beer $6-11 per pint, $4-9 for bottle Wine:$7-$20 per glass, $30 and up per bottle

One thing Saskatoon has, that most places wouldn’t ever dream of doing, is discounted doubles. Yes, if you order a double, you get a discount on your second ounce. If your first ounce is, let’s say, $7 and you get a double, it’ll most often be a total of $10 or $11.

What to Wear
You wear whatever you want. Honestly. Sometimes you’ll see someone in a suit sitting beside someone in pyjama pants. Saskatoon is a city where everyone hangs out together, so casual, formal or comfortable, it doesn’t matter as much as long as you are having fun.

Getting Around
Getting around is done most easily by driving (should you be the designated driver!) or taxi. Saskatoon does have Uber now and its drivers are growing in number.

The Core:
The downtown area is small but easily the go-to on weekend nights. The 2nd Ave 200 and 300 blocks have multiple bars and restaurants as well as some of the hotels along Spadina Cres. which borders the river. Once downtown you have 20 possible destinations all within walking distance from each other.

Check out:
Thirteen Pies for Brooklyn style pizza, arcade game, cocktails, beer
Congress Beer House for gastropub food, large beer selection
The James Lobby Bar for cocktails, wine, bubbly
Divas Night Club for dancing the night away
Winston’s English Pub for beer, highballs (one of Saskatoon’s oldest bars)
Shelter for local beer and (Dylan and Cam’s) tacos

To the East:
The east side is anchored by the Broadway Arts district and has an array of food and beverage options. It is currently going through a revitalization and changing of the guard with its restaurant/bar tenants. Broadway does have some OG spots that’ll hopefully never leave.

Check out:
Buds on Broadway for beer, highballs, live music (Blues and Rock)
Amigos for Tex Mex, beer, highballs and live music (shows usually every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday)
Black Cat Tavern for beer, highballs, live music, pinball
Leopold’s for beer, highballs, pub food, those dive good times

To The West:
The Riversdale area has a long food and beverage history in Saskatoon. Some of our first hotels were built there, although all but one are now gone. The area is not what it once was, but with an injection of young and new flavours, it’s maintaining it’s importance within Saskatoon’s food and beverage scene. You can find flavours from multiple parts of the world in Riversdale as well as one of our local craft breweries.

Check out:
The Wildebeest Room (at The Hollows) for beer, wine, bubbly, cocktails
Primal for Pasta, Amaro, Wine, Classic Cocktails
Odd Couple for Chinese food, Beer, Cocktails
9 Mile is a local craft brewery with tap room
Bartari is a video game / pinball bar (all the old school games)
Jamaican Food Basket for Jamaican food and the best jerk chicken

Also, never hesitate to ask any of the Saskatoon bartenders on this ol’ site about when and where they are working so that they can make you a fine cocktail! That is what they are here for.

Chad Coombs
Chad Coombs spent most of his life pursuing an art career, that urban legend of a life. After many international exhibitions, AKA playing the art lottery, Coombs required a means to maintain his art addiction.
He started slinging highballs in nightclubs, then pouring pints in a beer house, and is now mixing cocktails in Saskatoon. He went from photographic creations to liquid creations and isn't looking back. (Except for the back bar.)
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