Death & Co and PrettyUgly Bar Owners Speak on the Artistry Behind Toronto’s Cocktail Resurgence

Dave Kaplan (Death & Co) and Robin Goodfellow (Bar Raval) chat about cocktails, owning a bar, and mixing drinks.

City & People Food & Drink

For Toronto’s first-ever cocktail week, PrettyUgly Bar brought in Dave Kaplan from New York’s renowned Death & Co. Kaplan spent the guest shift making drinks behind the bar with owner Robin Goodfellow (Bar Raval, Paradise on Bloor, and Harry’s Charbroiled). To top the evening off, PrettyUgly featured Death & Co. classics all night long.

The MIX sat down with Goodfellow and Kaplan as they had a conversation about cocktail culture, what it means to be a mixologist, and how important it is to believe in your staff.

“Quality cocktails have not been a trend. They’ve been consistent since the resurgence of cocktail culture ten, fifteen years ago.” – Dave Kaplan, Death & Co.

Dave Kaplan and Robin Goodfellow behind the bar. (The MIX/Brian Hamilton)

At PrettyUgly, Goodfellow and business partner Grant van Gameren’s newest venture, you can expect 15th-century apothecary vibes and modern twists on classic cocktails. The mezcal-forward bar boasts one of the best drink lists in the city; by following in the footsteps of bars like Death & Co, PrettyUgly is shaking up Toronto’s cocktail scene. Side note, all puns in this article are intended.

Death & Co is ground zero for some of the modern era’s most iconic drinks. Cocktails such as the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned, Naked and Famous, and the Conference were all created by the brilliant minds behind the bar.

Goodfellow humbly mentions he’s more of a “bartender who serves people” than a “mixologist who serves drinks” (by popular opinion, he’s one of the best mixologists in Toronto), while Kaplan makes sure to mention he’s simply “a bar owner” (Death & Co has won Best American Cocktail Bar, Best Cocktail Menu, and receives worldwide recognition as a cocktail industry leader).

Though both are modest men, the two are undoubtedly exceeding in their respective industries. They’re both doing their best to make sure that when you drink, you do it well.