Toronto’s restaurant and hospitality scene is world-renowned thanks to its food and drink establishments that make the city stand out. You’ll find a true gem in every corner of Toronto, whether it be a local eatery or a hidden cocktail lounge. But of course, these establishments can’t flourish without the guidance and heart of those who see the potential of each new concept. If there’s one name you should be familiar with in the hospitality scene, it’s Monique Godinho, current Bar Manager at the Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, Sunnys Chinese.

Godinho is not just known for her exceptional mixology skills and creative, bold approach but for her unique ability to stand out amongst the crowd. With years of experience, she has become a beloved fixture in Toronto’s bar scene, recognized for her dedication to the craft.

A natural in her element, Godinho shared with Curiocity how she got her start as a bartender and the dedicated effort she made to get to where she is now.

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Humble Beginnings

Her first bartending job in Toronto was at the now-shuttered Jack Astor’s on John Street. There, she quickly became their lead cocktail server and was offered a bartending position. But in order to be a bartender she needed to compete in a flair competition which to her luck, she only had two months to prepare.

As intimidating as that may be for beginners, Godinho stuck to the basics – cocktails and moves. And with her team, she won her first competition.

“Everything competition related, it has to be tight, everything has to be spot on. Don’t go too crazy with it. Keep it simple – Make it classic, make it delicious but keep everything easy and simple and bring it together elegantly,” shares Godinho when reflecting back to this moment.

“And that’s still to this day, what I abide by when I compete.”

But from there, she desired more. She shares that in those early years, she jumped around a lot from bar to bar, looking for growth and wanting to learn from the best.

“I was looking for the jobs where all the cool bartenders worked at, where all the people I’ve read about in the scene worked at, people who I could learn from. And, so I jumped around a lot and when I felt like I was no longer learning, I got a new job.”

More opportunities


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Her next opportunity was at Pizzeria Libretto where she tried her hand at making her first cocktail for the menu. Though it didn’t get selected, it was an opportunity to put her name out there and experiment with flavours. The cocktail featured all her favourite things – Passionfruit, tequila, spicy notes, but despite her loss, it didn’t hold her back from putting herself out there.

Notable establishments under her belt include Miku and The Drake Hotel, where she worked with the late Sandy De Almeida. There she taught Godinho to be detailed with her approach, to place an importance on the small things.

Other bars she worked at include Quetzal, Bar Raval, Bar Buca, Marben and The Cloak Bar.

Her first opportunity to create a menu was at Marben and its sister watering hole, The Cloak Bar. There, alongside her friend Neil, they created its cocktail menu.

Each and every establishment helped shape the bartender she is today. Thanks to those experiences, she is now able to give back and provide her knowledge to those starting in the field, especially with her team Sunnys Chinese.

Focusing on the now

“I’m the person that they look up to now. Like I’m one of those people – which is crazy to think. But at the same time, I’m so eager to teach them,” says Godinho. “My team right now at Sunnys is so green. And I’m glad to have them because they really want to learn. They want to be bartenders. They want to grow.”

Though a leader amongst her peers, and a bold one at that, Godinho had to step out of her comfort zone and recreate the Sunnys cocktail menu. This posed a challenge considering the Chinese establishment prides itself on its authenticity, which means the cocktails and their flavours must stay true to its roots.

“I haven’t built a menu in a long time since Marben and The Cloak so this is the first time I’ve been able to put my creativity all together on a page in a really long time,” shares Godinho.


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“And the cocktails have to be Chinese so there’s a lot of research, a lot of tasting stuff, a lot of talking with chefs. My boyfriend is the best for this. I’m super lucky that he is a chef, because oftentimes he’ll come home from work and then we just talk about our menus and spitball ideas.”

And through those sparks of creativity came one of the biggest sellers on the menu, the Nine Dragons cocktail.

“It’s a gin-based cocktail with bitter melon infused saké and, cactus pear syrup and Calamansi with a little bit of lime and it’s topped with soda and people f*cking dig it. They love it. It’s really delicious,” says Godinho.

“The drinks that I’m coming up with are some of the most creative that I’ve ever done in my whole entire career. And therefore can potentially be some of the best work that I’ve ever done. So that’s super cool. And it’s been a ride.”

Down the line

What’s next? Godinho wants to focus on her life right now, tapping into her creative side whenever she has the chance at Sunnys Chinese.

Though the idea of a farm-to-table type of restaurant may seem intriguing to her, Godinho says it may not be as sustainable as she may have hoped considering how expensive it can be to live in Toronto.

“The future is completely uncertain. I don’t know, maybe someone comes to me next month and says, I want to open a bar with you and maybe I say yes. But I’m trying to be present in the now.”


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As Godinho continues to mentor the next generation of bartenders at Sunnys Chinese, her story becomes a testament to the power of dedication, innovation, and the pursuit of excellence in the heart of Toronto’s vibrant hospitality landscape.

Her influence extends beyond the confines of a bar, contributing significantly to the local culture and setting a standard for hospitality that goes beyond the expected.

If there’s one thing to take from this, it’s to stay true to yourself, continue to push for more and you’ll see the fruits of your labour in more ways than one.

Check out her delicious cocktail creations at Sunnys Chinese – you won’t regret it.

Sunnys Chinese

Where: 60 Kensington Ave, Units 6-14.