Proof Cocktail Bar
By Sarah Sussman

Handcrafted Cocktails for Every Taste

The brainchild of Vine Arts liquor boutique owners Jesse Willis and Jeff Jamieson, Proof Cocktail Bar is a stylish 60-seat watering hole specializing in handcrafted cocktails and spirited creations. Headed by Nathan Head (of Milk Tiger Lounge), Tony Migliarese (of Cilantro) and bar manager Jeff Savage (formerly of Edmonton’s Three Boars Eatery), Proof offers Calgarians an unpretentious introduction to cocktail culture.

"Through the States and major cities in Canada you see this cocktail culture and a group of individuals who are passionate about spirits and cocktail making. And we believed it could happen here," says Proof general manager and managing partner Tony Migliarese.

Upon entry, Proof is split into two sides – the bar area on the left and a more intimate seating area and open kitchen on the right. The space was designed by Sarah Ward – the designer behind The Nash and Corbeaux Bakehouse – and exudes upscale, rustic charm. Proof is decorated with kitschy industrial lighting, plush leather bar seats and eccentric touches of decor like the bar’s infamous pelican lamp.

“We have strange and weird cocktails, but when you taste them they are so familiar to you,” Tony says. “There's ingredients you may have never seen before, but it all makes sense when you taste it.”

We have strange and weird cocktails, but when you taste them they are so familiar to you. - Tony Migliarese, general manager
Proof general manager Tony Migliarese serves up 300-plus different spirits to guests. Photo by Sarah Sussman

Taking the Pretense out of Cocktail Culture

Proof’s approach to drinking is very collaborative, as guests are encouraged to have a conversation with their mixologist prior to ordering. If customers have a favourite spirit, a go-to drink or a preferred flavour profile, Proof’s mixologists will craft up a custom cocktail for the customer’s palette.

“We have our ways of guiding people to the right direction so they’re not getting the wrong cocktail,” Tony says. “If certain people came on the first try and ordered something without asking, they might get something that is a good cocktail but isn’t suited for them.”

According to Tony, the most important quality of a good cocktail is balance. “I can have any cocktail. It can be everything from Tiki, which is super fruit-forward, to an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, which is spirit-forward, as long as the cocktail is balanced,” he says, adding that his own personal go-to drink is the Negroni. A menu of wine and beer is also available. And for those who don’t drink, Proof offers a menu of handcrafted non-alcoholic drinks, including the lavender and rose water-infused Provence Lemonade and the coconut almond milk-based Monkey King. Coffee and espresso are also available.

Proof serves up delicious cocktails on a nightly basis.
In addition to its extensive menu of handcrafted cocktails, Proof's mixologists craft up custom one-of-a-kind libations Photo courtesy of Proof Cocktail Bar.

Tasty Small-Plate Drinking Food

In addition to its extensive offering of drinks, Proof has a small food menu created by Chef Justin (Tino) Longpre. The food menu changes constantly but features a rotating selection of small plate eats, perfect for pairing with cocktails.

“Our food program has kind of taken off, in the sense that people come sometimes just for the food,” says Tony. “But mostly I wanted it to be something that went well with the cocktails.” Proof’s food menu includes dishes with crunchiness, stickiness, sweetness, and other defining flavours and textures. Popular dishes include the pork steamed buns (which have been on the menu since the bar opened), roasted cauliflower, and the taleggio mac and cheese with rosemary hazelnut breadcrumbs. Tony suggests pairing the Fire In The Pharmacy with the mac and cheese.  “Anything that’s rich like that, I always pair with something refreshing,” he says.

Proof opens at 4 p.m. daily and does not take reservations. While cocktail culture is still relatively new to the city, Tony says Calgarians have begun to embrace it and are warming up to experimenting with new libations. “Thanks to the craft beer movement, people are kind of into things that are craft-made – and made by people you know.”

Proof Cocktail Bar is located on 1st Street and 13th Avenue S.W.
Proof Cocktail Bar is nestled in the corner of 1st Street and 13th Avenue S.W. Photo by Joel Dryden
Close menu