Tag Archive: policy


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Some brewery needs to hire David Cross to do a couple spots. It would make everyone’s day.

ALCOHOL IS LESS FATTENING THAN YOU THINK. Quote. Now stop buying Molson 67. |Toronto Sun|

Adam McDowell has some good ideas when it comes to bars stepping up their game for 2011. |National Post|

We will soon get to try sake the way the Japanese intended when Toronto’s first sake brewery opens in the Distillery District this spring. |Toronto Life|

And as if we really need another reason why NYC is better than us, they’ve gone and protected their front-of-the-house staff’s tips. Not sure if that’s really anywhere near Mayor Ford’s give-a-fuck list but it would be nice… I could always give him a call. |Toronto Life|

I have to say, I have to agree with Beppi when he posits that older whisky is not necessarily better. My favorite range is often the 12 to 18 year-olds. |The Globe And Mail|

Hmm, maybe where Toronto shines is our lack of pretension? A brilliant diatribe against arrogant bartenders. |Threepenny|

But then again, NYC has these three cocktails. Pretty tasty. |The New York Times|

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Nora Maynard asks a great question and since nothing is more appealing to me than being stuck in a tropical paradise with an unlimited supply of booze, I’ll answer it.

1. Pink Gin-and-Tonic

One of my favorite cocktails made so much better with the inclusion of Fever-Tree Tonic Water.

2. Dark-and-Stormy

Because I’ve been drinking ginger beer since I was little.

3. Mai Tai

It’s so hard to find a good one and we’re lucky to have three or four bars in Toronto who do it justice. The quinessential island drink.

4. Black Velvet

A bit of an oddball choice but I really enjoy ‘em.

5. Manhattan

Always a Manhattan, never a Martini. I can’t help which camp I fall in… What are your desert island cocktails? |The Kitchn|

James Chatto’s swan song for Toronto Life finds him celebrating the architects of the current renaissance our city’s cocktail culture is currently reaping the benefits of. Having finally gotten around to visiting Barchef, I think I need to make my way to both the Black Hoof and Ame. |Toronto Life|

Malcolm Gladwell wonders why we’re surprised when we treat drinkers like sex-and-violence-crazed ruffians and then they behave that way. His idea of using culture to constrain our expectations surrounding the consumption of alcohol has merit. |Toronto Life|

Speaking of ruffians, the City of Toronto has approved temporary changes to the serving hours for bars during the World Cup. You’ll be able to get your booze one, whole hour earlier! |blogTO|

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Awhile back, I wrote about Bruce Buschel’s New York Times article on the 100 things restaurant staff should never do and the sometimes vitriolic debate surrounding the piece. Quite rightly, a lot of folks felt the list was pretentious and Buschel’s lack of experience certainly didn’t help matters.

He was roundly mocked by many people in the industry (and quite a few patrons) but just as many clueless freaks chimed in with support proving to me that a large segment of the population clearly has no idea how challenging it can sometimes be to a good server.

While I’m no hater (hell, at least a third of Buschel’s advice was solid) everything else he said left me with flashbacks to the motley assortment of owners and managers that I’ve had the misfortune of working with. Like many things in life, the service industry has far more bad eggs than good ones and it gets stinkier the higher you look.

Leaving aside the bickering between staff and guests (some things never change) and a certain segment of the workforce that will never amount to anything (I like to call them “the doomed”) the blame for staff performing poorly can almost entirely be laid at the feet of the owners and those power-hungry assholes they hire to manage their venue for them.

Training is clearly lacking here and while I’d like nothing better than to put together a helpful, concise training manual nobody who matters is going to pay attention and it’s way more to fun to right a shit-list of no-nos anyway…

And so, I present the twenty-five things restaurant owners should never do (I initially considered adding seventy-five more but there’s something to be said for brevity). A lot of this applies to managers as well and quite frankly, I see no harm in lumping ‘em all in together. To my mind, if the manager sucks, the owner’s either not much better or wilfully ignorant.

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I was quite surprised to read in The Globe and Mail that the Liberal government has hired two banks to look into selling the LCBO and other Crown assets to cover this year’s deficit.

After all, wasn’t this brought up before by Mike Harris et al. (and Ernie Eves before him?) and dismissed when the government realized that selling valuable assets to raise money may help cover their deficit now won’t do much for balancing the budget the next year?

But leaving aside whether it’s smart for the Liberals to divest themselves of one of their best and brightest cash cows, which is best for the citizens of Ontario; sale or no sale?

Judging from the comments on the G&M article, a lot of people are confused as to whether this would be a good thing and while I’m not an unabashed fan of the LCBO, I’m also not about to jump on the privatization bandwagon unless I’m sure that it would really benefit us.

So let’s look at the three of the biggest points being raised and see whether they have any merit or not.

Booze would be cheaper.

Really? That would be nice but most consumers don’t realize is that there In the US, each state has its own laws concerning the distribution and sale of alcohol. Some places are cheaper than others but I still have fond memories of brown-bagging tall-boys in NYC; I went to quite a few variety stores and prices ranged from $1.25 to$2.50 for a Coors Light which is not that radically different but you obviously pay more for the “convenience”. A case of mass-market, domestic beer that costs $36 in Ontario typically costs $22 in Quebec and about $18 in New Jersey.

The reason it’s generally cheaper down in the States has everything to do with taxes. Here in Canada, we pay a 26.5% tax on alcohol which includes a 5.75% liquor mark-up fee. In the US, the percentage of taxes applied to alcohol varies from state to state but they’re nowhere near as high.

I’d be the last person to suggest we get rid of the taxes that pay for our health care system (amongst other things) but I do think the mark-up is ridiculous. Still even if the LCBO were sold and the mark-up was removed, we wouldn’t be looking at the same price levels they have in the States; we would probably be a lot closer to Alberta or Quebec. (Strangely enough, spirits are cheaper in Alberta but wine and beer aren’t. Wine and beer are cheaper in Quebec thanks to provincial subsidies that favor local products.)

And there’s no guarantee the mark-up would disappear. If anything, it’s unlikely it would go anywhere since pricing is regulated by the government to ensure socially-responsible consumption of alcohol which, along with store hours, is one of the primary methods they employ to prevent us from degenerating into a bunch of booze-soaked rummies (so we’re told).

Worse yet, if the entire company was sold and allowed to continue as a monopoly except in private hands, we’d have yet another Beer Store on our hands and you only have to look at Hydro One and the telecom companies to see where that gets the consumer.

Looking at the graph above (snatched from the LCBO website) it’s clear that the LCBO controls too much of market to allow it operate as a second private monopoly, answerable to no one but its stockholders.

The selection would be greater.

Yes and no. While the opportunity for specialists to open shops catering to niche markets is greater, there’d be just as many people carrying the same mass-market swill we see everywhere. With the exception of the bigger stores, most LCBOs only stock what they know consumers in their area will be likely to buy. Most private operations wouldn’t be any different.

One big concern is that while the bigger cities in Ontario would probably have no worse selection than they do now, many smaller towns in outlying areas would see their stores close with no guarantee of any replacement.

The sale of alcohol needs to be controlled.

Deciding who buys booze and when they can buy it is an age-old concern. Some people say there’s no harm in having convenience stores sell beer and wine while others argue that public drunkenness and under-age drinking will become bigger problems.

I’ve always argued that kids should be exposed to alcohol sooner rather than later (presumably limiting all of that surreptitious, binge drinking) but as that’s generally an unpopular opinion to have, I’d also like to point out that those same stores seem to do a pretty good job of preventing kids from smoking too.

Fact is, people will do what they want to do and the best results have always come from education and integration, not prohibition. The laws we already have in place will take care of the egregious offenders; why persecute anyone else?

Despite my beefs with the LCBO, I’ve come to realize that the provincial government is responsible for nearly all of ‘em… the insane mark-up, lack of inter-provincial distribution (where the hell are my Quebec beers and my BC wines?) and inconvenient store hours.

Selling the LCBO doesn’t change any of that.

The powers that be will still regulate the fuck out of whomever’s selling us our booze and unless they decide private operators to cater to niche consumers, we’ll be looking at another monopoly. We don’t need another Beer Store.

What we do need is a reexamination of the liquor laws and regulations that have their background in Ontario’s Scottish-Protestant roots and adjusting them to fit a society that, over the past decade, has become a lot more conscious of when and how they drink, what they want to buy and where they buy it from.

(And a little store downtown selling me limited-release tequila, absinthe and bitters would be nice too.)

For those of you stuck on a street with no corkscrew and a crowd of friends eagerly awaiting to imbibe.

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Do you know the difference between whiskey and whisky? The Kitchn fills us in.

The Pegu Blog reveals just how close we came to losing Angostura Bitters in the latest economic crisis.

In case you can’t find enough uses for apples this fall, SLOSHED! gives us the Bum’s Rush. I think I like apple juice with tequila even more than with Zubrowka

In more serious news, we’re now being told that mixing cocaine and alcohol is bad for you ‘cos it forms a whole new chemical in your liver. There’s a definite British vibe, seeing as this is the Guardian and all, but I can’t say Canada’s on the level with our neighbors across the pond, seeing as our coke’s really quite shitty at the moment (hearsay, I swear!).

In Spain, there’s a bit of a debate going on regarding teenagers and their right to throw public parties called “botellons”. Neighbors talk of noise and vandalism, teens say they’re being scape-goated. Regardless, it sure beats that period of my youth where I hung out in this public park in Whitby, furtively smoking joints and wishing I had some kind of booze.

And proving yet again that Canada’s one of the most efficient squelchers of fun ever, the City of Richmond, the B.C. liquor board and even Ottawa are burying the Dutch in red tape when all they want to do is bring their beloved Holland House tradition to the 2010 Olympics.

God forbid we should let people have a good time. I’m sure these policy-Nazis are afraid that if Canadians realize how much fun the rest of the world is having, they’ll stop putting up with some of the most draconian alcohol laws around.

One day, I’d like to walk around town with a beer in my hand. One day, I’d like to be able to bring my favorite bottle of wine with me to a restaurant for a reasonable corking fee without having the owner jump through bureaucratic hoops. One day, I’d like to be able to decide for myself which liquor store to patronize (and that will be the one that offers stuff I can’t find anywhere else). Hell, I want to be able to buy it at the corner store and then walk back up to my apartment and share it with my friends! One day, I’d like to be able to drink past 2 in the morning because I had work till last call and maybe I’m not quite done yet.

One day…

It seems like it’s been a busy day for booze and I have some more links. Instead of putting up another post, I’m going to add ‘em to this one.

If you’re a construction worker, you probably drink a lot. Top three professions are: construction, agriculture and general labour which is not much of a surprise. The report by the group appropriately titled Ensuring Solutions to Alcoholic Problems also found that male-dominated industries had more incidences with excessive-drinking and job absenteeism.

As far as I’m concerned, the only really interesting bit of information was that service and sales (my area if you will) ranked a solid fourth and fifth, respectively. (I knew we were all drunks but I didn’t know we ranked that high.)

The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, based out of Oregon, had not 1 but 12 themed cocktails for their latest event. When not drowning your sorrows in The Yog-Sothoth, you could order everything from a Twisted Tentacle to the Pamakazi of Ibn-Ghazi. While some of them look fairly derivative, I still dig the idea.

Fancy a taste of the world’s strongest beer? Utopia, produced by Samuel Adams, reigns in at a hefty 27% ABV and is a veritable stew of yeasts, malts and hops with a bit of Triple Bock. It’ll cost ya $150 but at that strength and price range, it’s more like a spirit than anything.

After international wine critic Jancis Robinson accused the wine industry in B.C. of being misleading when it comes to clearly differentiating between wines produced in that province and wines blended there, their version of the LCBO and several wineries have pledged to improve their labeling practices.

I’m happy to report that this is already a standard in Ontario. While at the LCBO today, I noticed that the blends were on the left and the VQAs on the right which, while it may seem a small step, is important when it comes to helping consumers make an informed choice.

In other semi-serious news, scientists at the University of Colorado have determined that there’s a genetic difference between people who are alcohol-dependent and those of us with a tendency to consume high amounts of alcohol. Just show your friends this article whenever they call you an alcoholic!

Over at SLOSHED! they’re doing their best to keep us warm this winter with two excellent recipes; the Green Tea Toddy and Pumpkin Cider. My sore throat is thanking them already…

Mixology Monday featured vermouth and I’m happy to say they found some uses for that bottle that many people reach for last. The Old Town Alchemy Co. offers up the White Ladder while Tiare of A Mountain Of Crushed Ice presents the Signora Rossa. Both are delicious!

Normally, I wouldn’t bother with this kind of thing but I can’t help but notice that The Washington Post is busy trashing a reality show that features s0-called bartenders competing against each other in “a showdown of skills, smarts and spirits”. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds and contributes to the bartending-until-I-get-something-better mindset.

I don’t read the Toronto Star for reasons I won’t go into here (involves one of their columnists trashing a guy’s reputation in what was an on-going court case) but this is a damn tasty recipe. Tamarinds add a whole new dimension to the margarita.

Lastly, if you’re really into making clear, pretty ice, Alcademics.com has figured it out for you. Me, I just want my drinks cold but I admire the ingenuity on principle.

(Photo taken from dogwelder’s Flickr photostream.)

Swimming-drunk-282x300A man in North Carolina recently had all of his moonshine confiscated which the director of ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement hah!) is calling the “biggest seizure” of his career. How big is big? 929 gallons equals 118,912 ounces which would keep quite a few bars running for awhile.

Restaurants in Vancouver can now extend last call from midnight to 1 a.m. during the weekdays and from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. on the weekends. I don’t really see this as a big deal because their bars can already stay open till 3 a.m. but I suppose if an owner wants to extend his service by an owner, it’s up to him. I wish Toronto had a 3 a.m. last call

A fellow by the name of Paul Dickson has written a dictionary of 3,000 synonyms for “drunk”. Eponymously-titled, it’s charmingly illustrated by Brian Rea and deserves a place in every self-respecting drunkard’s library. Kingsley Amis would have a copy!

Jamie Boudreau of spiritsandcocktails.com makes Cherry Old-Fashioneds to accompany an Old-Fashioned in an inspired bit of molecular mixology. It sure beats those liqueur-filled chocolates you get during the holidays.

Sloshed! shares the recipe for the Corpse Reviver #2 just in time for Halloween. I’m no fan of hair of the dog but this could work for me.

I love orgeat so it’s only fitting that Rick of Kaiser Penguin, who pointed me in the direction of the first recipe I used, should come back with what he claims is an even better version. Enjoy and remember, the darker the sugar you use, the better it will turn out!

Equally indispensable when it comes to making quality cocktails is ginger syrup. Tiare of A Mountain Of Crushed Ice wants to know how you make your ginger syrup. While I mostly muddle or shake mine, I’d be interested in trying pressed ginger juice.

(Illustration by Brian Rea.)

boozeThe LCBO has stopped its employees from accepting gifts from distilleries and breweries in order to fall in line with the Public Service of Ontario Act. Does this mean families will actually be able to afford Leafs tickets once more? (Probably not but it’s a start.)

When does an awareness campaign become an advertisement? Is this placement by Droga5 that aligns the Victoria Bitter brand of beer with Anzac (a day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand for servicemen and women who died during military duty for their countries) appropriate?

Pete Brown thinks so and I happen to agree with him; it sure as hell beats anything we have over here.

Over at A Good Beer Blog, Alan McLeod talks about a proposed law in Alberta that would allow bar owners to collect and trade information about their customers. While it’s designed to stop gang activity, we all know someone who got banned from a bar for a misunderstanding. Who watches the watchers?

Greg Clow of Taste T.O. reviews the newest beer in town, Palm Ale, which is the first in a new line (hopefully) and the result of a deal between Brick Brewery and Latis Imports.

Oh Group shares the recipes for Hellfire bitters (and a resulting cocktail, the Mexican Standoff).

Next week (Friday, May 22nd) is the C’est What Spring Festival of Craft Breweries! Bartowel News has the details. I can’t wait to try Flying Monkeys’ Hoptical Illusion…

The next time sometime disputes my claim that America is far, far ahead of us when it comes to cocktails, I’ll send ‘em this link. Kaiser Penguin shares some recipes whipped up during Thursday Drink Night.

(If you’re in Ontario, you’ll probably be missing at least one of the ingredients from every, single one of these recipes but substitutions are always possible.)

(Image taken from the_thirsty_moth’s Flickr Photostream.)

drunkensailorNormally, these kind of lists take up space (and Modern Drunkard isn’t known for the quality of their writing) but these drinking rules are great. I found myself nodding from the perspectives of both sides of the bar.

Wayne Curtis over at The Atlantic talks to Eric Seed about his knack for raising long-forgotten liqueurs from the dead. I’d really love to try some violet liqueur…

A whiskey collector in Tennesee is facing a fine and the loss of part of his collection after he sold a rare bottle of his which is apparently illegal in his state without a license.

In a related article, people all over America are fed up with stupid liquor laws and some of the more antiquated ones are getting repealed. Hopefully this will start to happen north of the border as well; so many of Ontario’s laws were instituted by stiff, Scottish Protestant bastards.

That being said, we do do some things right… as you may have noticed the LCBO has banned plastic bags from its stores. Despite some pansy-ass whimpering from the plastic bag industry, I’m betting this kind of thing will spread amongst retailers. Now if only they’d bring back those cloth six-pack wine bags…

Although they won that fight, they’ve lost another against Diageo after refusing to pay higher prices for several of the latter’s scotch products. Personally, I won’t miss any of ‘em; maybe this will give Centennial Rye or some other deserving product a shot.

Lastly, this might seem rather basic to some of us but Sloshed! offers some good advice for the amateur mixologist on creating cocktails from scratch. (Sure it’s riskier when you’re paying for the booze…)

Umami Mart’s Happy Hour tells us all about making simple syrup and some interesting variations. The sage is amazing! (edit: Part 2 is up now which delves into fruit-based simple syrups. Check it out!)

The New Brunswick Liquor Corporation rolls out a new line of government-branded beer to compete with that cheap Quebecois stuff. Too bad it’s $18.67 for 12 (I don’t get “socially responsible pricing”) when you can pick up a two-four for $25 across the border. They might want to rethink that one…

Hired Guns show us some interesting wine label designs. I particularly like the braille label (wine cultivated by the blind!) and the ghoulish “Return of the Living Red”.

I’d really like to try The Last Word. Any cocktail that takes you on a ride sounds good to me!

Why can’t we have more venues like Schiller’s Liquor Bar in Toronto? Surely there’s got to be some interesting aspect of our city’s history we could mine for that collective sigh of nostalgia?

Plus one more thing:

My local, the Rasputin Vodka Bar, is offering a new special to celebrate Toronto’s first taste of spring.

You can get $2.50 mixed drinks and half-pints from 6pm to 9pm, Tuesday to Friday. They’re also keeping with their regular specials which include $6 Russian Mojitos on Tuesday, $2.50 mixed drinks on Thursday and a $6 classic vodka martini on Friday.

I plan on heading there Wednesday so stop and say hi if you’re in the area.

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