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LCBO kiosks may be coming to Toronto grocery stores

(Image: Karl Baron)

(Image: Karl Baron)

Here’s half-measure number two in the Liberal government’s multi-part strategy to placate Ontarians calling for corner-store booze sales across the province. (Number one, you may recall, was a promise to install LCBO booths at some farmers’ markets.) Earlier today, Ontario finance minister Charles Sousa announced a plan to install ten LCBO Express kiosks in Ontario grocery stores as part of a year-long pilot program. The province is asking any supermarkets with 2,000 extra square feet of retail space to apply for the privilege of hosting the Ontario liquor seller in their stores, with hopes that the booze stands will be up and running by the end of 2014. We won’t know until later this year whether any of the kiosks are coming to Toronto. Either way, we suspect that a few extra-glamourous VQA-style shops may be insufficient to mollify the pro-privatization masses.

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A low-key dive bar and veggie café opens on the Queen West strip

A low-key dive bar and veggie café opens on the Queen West strip

Situated smack in the middle of one of Toronto’s most self-consciously cool bar zones, Lipstick and Dynamite—the name is an homage to a 2004 documentary about female professional wrestlersis an anomaly. It feels like the kind of rec-roomy dive that might have stood in its place ten years ago, before exposed brick and barn board became compulsory bar decor. The floors are plain white tile, the walls plastered with 80s album covers and garage-sale art, and the bookshelves stuffed with paperback novels and second-hand board games. Owners Celeste Toledo and Steve Cann, who met and worked together at Kensington’s Exile, wanted to open a place that felt comfortable and lived-in: an unpretentious spot where locals could grab a low-key drink (beer, standard spirits and simple cocktails), or fill up on comforting vegetarian food, like chipotle-yam burgers and Reuben sandwiches made with mushrooms instead of meat. A recent post on the bar’s Facebook page sums up the bar’s ethos well (and suggests rowdy revelers may want to take a pass): “No assholes allowed, please.”

Lipstick and Dynamite, 992 Queen St. W., 416-535-4554, facebook.com

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What beers best represent Canada? Here’s what the PM chose

PM-BeerIn the midst of all the Sochi hockey madness, our PM challenged American pres Barack Obama to a friendly gentlemen’s wager: a case of beer for the world leader whose men’s and women’s hockey teams performed best during the Games. Canada won, and Obama, being a good sport, shipped a couple two-fours of the White House’s signature ale to the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

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Ten refreshing spring beers hitting LCBO shelves this month

LCBO Spring Beer Guide 2014

Despite what the weather forecast may suggest, spring is indeed coming. For those who need proof, the LCBO recently went public with its seasonal craft beer release. Springtime beers tend to be lighter, fruitier and—this year at least—hoppier than winter options. We chose our favourites from the LCBO’s hops-heavy list and added some of our own picks for spring: sour ales, saisons and a handful of new local brews. Here, ten spring beers to get you through the last stretch of snow.

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This new Toronto shop sells craft beer swag and home-brewing gear

(Image: Mom 'n' Hops Ontario)

(Image: Mom ‘n’ Hops Ontario)

Toronto’s newest boutique is geared toward a very specific clientele—namely, the type that can ID any pint of beer down the specific variety of hops. Launched as a collaboration between the Toronto Brewing Company and local craft-beer site Mom ‘n’ Hops, the shop specializes in craft-beer swag. Beer buffs looking to show support their favourite breweries can buy branded t-shirts, hoodies, baseball caps and pint glasses emblazoned with the logos of local outfits like Left Field and Junction Craft Brewing. The physical store is housed in Toronto Brewing’s 2,000-square-foot storefront across from Downsview Park. It’s also a supply store for serious home brewers (for instance, it advertises something called a “massive liquid yeast fridge”), so shoppers should be prepared to leave with a new hobby.

Tu, Fr 10-5, We-Th 10-7, Sa 10-4, 3701 Chesswood Dr., Unit 115, 416-901-3900, torontobrewing.ca

 

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Shiraz-mataz: the LCBO’s best five syrahs under $20

The wine most likely to make you forget it’s February

Shiraz-mataz: the LCBO's best five syrahs under $20

Syrah, a.k.a. shiraz, is my winter wine—a seductive red with fiery pepper notes and warming ­alcohol. It is often an expensive wine, whether it’s a traditional and elegant version from the northern Rhône in France or a rich shiraz from Australia. But there’s much more range today, and the syrah landscape is broader, better priced and more dynamic than ever before. Here, my picks of the best syrahs under $20.

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Rosedale residents get a new, upscale juice boutique

(Image: Greenhouse Juice/Facebook)

(Image: Greenhouse Juice/Facebook)

Greenhouse Juice Co. might be the most adorable way to detox in Toronto. The quaint white cottage on Macpherson Avenue offers everything a juice-happy Rosedaler could want: casually elegant surroundings, an on-site nutritionist and mesmerizing rows of organic fruit and vegetable juices that come in exotic blends like The Good (romaine lettuce, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon and Himalayan sea salt) and Gold Rush (pineapple, cucumber, lemon and ginger).

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Introducing: Snakes and Lagers, Little Italy’s new craft beer hall and board-gaming café

Introducing: Snakes and Lagers

Name: Snakes and Lagers Board Game Bar
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Contact Info: 488 College St., snakesandlagers.com
Owner: Aaron Zack
Chefs: Consulting chef Ariel Coplan and kitchen manager Nick Morra, both previously from Acadia

The Food: Shareable, street food–inspired dishes conducive to casual mid-game snacking. The short menu includes fried chicken sliders, pickled deviled eggs and a miniature double-decker burger called the “petit mac.”

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Save $1000 on champagne (or $5 on box wine) at the LCBO’s month-long clearance sale

(Image: LCBO/Facebook)

(Image: LCBO/Facebook)

In a province where most alcohol sales are controlled by a government-run cartel, the words “booze” and “bargain” don’t often seem to go hand-in-hand. Unbeknownst to most Ontarians, however, the LCBO isn’t averse to slashing prices every once in a while. Like now, for instance. The liquor seller is currently holding a big post-holiday blowout that runs until February 2. It includes fairly extensive markdowns on wine, beer and spirits, with options for every type of tippler: a 1995 bottle of Brut Champagne, for instance, discounted from $4,500 to $3,500; a rare Veuve Cliquot rosé slashed to a measly $1000; or four bucks off a jumbo-sized bottle of cinnamon-flavoured Fireball whiskey, if that’s more your speed. For a full list of discounted products, visit the LCBO website.

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Six inspired vodka infusions to help you create cocktails like a pro mixologist

Aja Sax, bartender at the new Dufferin Grove gastropub The Huntsman, on how to custom-flavour your vodka—and what to do with it

Six ways with vodka infusions

1 | It’s Kosher (pictured)
Infuse vodka with two handfuls fresh dill. Shake 1 ½ oz infused vodka, ¾ oz Becherovka liqueur, ¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice, 2 slices muddled cucumber and 3 drops Bittermens Burlesque bitters. Double-strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh dill.

2 | Flip Flop
Infuse vodka with three or four vanilla beans. Shake 2 oz infused vodka, ½ oz Devil’s Cut bourbon, ¼ oz cinnamon syrup, 5 drops Bittercube blackstrap molasses bitters, ¾ oz puréed apple and 1 beaten egg without ice. Add ice and shake again. Double-strain into cocktail glass. Grate fresh cinnamon overtop.

3 | BellHop
Infuse vodka with one sliced yellow or orange bell pepper. Shake 1 ½ oz infused vodka, ½ oz agave nectar, handful of fresh sage and ¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice. Strain over ice into a Collins glass. Top with 1 oz club soda. Garnish with a bell pepper slice.

4 | Voodoo Chili
Infuse vodka with one stemmed jalapeño pepper, cut lengthwise. Rinse coupette glass with mezcal. Shake 1 ½ oz infused vodka, ½ oz Cointreau, 1 ½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice and ½ oz agave nectar. Double-strain into coupette. Garnish with cilantro.

5 | Flower Child
Infuse vodka with two handfuls of fresh lavender. Gently shake 2 oz infused vodka, ½ oz Martini Bianco vermouth, 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice and ½ oz chamomile syrup. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Float ½ oz green Chartreuse on top and garnish with chamomile flowers.

6 | Not Grandma’s Cobbler
Infuse vodka with one sliced peach. Muddle 5 strawberries with 2 oz infused vodka, ½ oz Galliano liqueur and 1 oz fresh lemon juice. Add 1 beaten egg white and shake without ice. Add ice and shake again. Double-strain into a cocktail glass. Grate nutmeg overtop.

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Beer in Corner Stores: one day, two conflicting polls, zero legitimate takeaways

Beer in Corner Stores: one day, two conflicting polls, zero legitimate takeaways
People in Ontario really want to buy booze at corner stores. Or they really don’t. It all depends on which poll you consult.

Yesterday, both the union that represents employees of The Beer Store and the Ontario Convenience Stores Association released polls claiming to reflect Ontarians’ attitudes toward the oft-proposed (but rarely seriously considered) idea of selling beer and wine at corner stores. The results of the two surveys are about as entertaining as they are uninformative.

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Ontario will get 13 new outlets of The Beer Store in 2014

The redesigned Beer Store at Bathurst and College (Image: The Beer Store)

The redesigned Beer Store at Bathurst and College (Image: The Beer Store)

The Beer Store’s trademark caster belt may soon be a thing of the past. Yesterday, the Ontario beer chain owned by super-brewers Labatt, Molson and Sleeman’s announced a $30 million revamp that will see 13 new outlets across Ontario in 2014, as well as 61 floor-to-rafter renovations. Twenty GTA stores have already been built or redesigned according to the plan, including a 6,500-square-foot Mississauga outlet at Dixie and Dundas, and a brand new store in the Junction, which opened in the Stockyards retail block on Monday.

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Kathleen Wynne says yes to selling wine at farmers’ markets

(Image: LCBO/Facebook)

(Image: LCBO/Facebook)

The will-they-won’t-they storyline between the LCBO and Ontario corner stores has been alternately intriguing and infuriating Ontarians for over 25 years (counting from former Liberal premier David Peterson’s hope-stirring election promise in 1985). The province is right on schedule for a new but contrived-seeming half-measure to make it look as though the concept is progressing, but will probably just send it spinning off into political oblivion for another five years. Enter Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, who yesterday announced a new plan for extra-LCBO booze sales—not at convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Mac’s, but at far less convenient farmers’ markets.

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Have cocktail, will travel: three popular bartenders-for-hire who are ready to shake and deliver

Have Cocktail, Will Travel: three popular bartenders-for-hire who are ready to shake and deliver

(Images: Luis Mora)

Any good holiday party shares a few key components: a killer playlist, an energetic crowd and, of course, a festive beverage or two. Instead of plying your friends with mulled wine or store-bought nog, we recommend hiring a pro. Your guests will be impressed, and you’ll have time to enjoy the party instead of worrying about the status of everyone’s glass. Here, three stellar Toronto mixologists who will bring the bar to you.


Adam Graham, The Saint TavernAdam Graham,
The Saint Tavern

His drink menu spans classic aperitifs to fizzy cocktails to end-of-the-night Chartreuse hot chocolate. $500 a night, plus supplies. adam@thesainttavern.com.

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Introducing: The Dock Ellis, an unusually hip sports bar on Dundas West from the owner of The Emmet Ray

toronto-restaurant-the-dock-ellis-11-intro

Name: The Dock Ellis
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Contact Info: 1280 Dundas St. W., 416-531-2300, facebook.com
Owners: Alain Pitout, Callum Woods and Andrew Kaiser, the owner of the The Emmet Ray on College Street
Chef: Trish Gill, formerly the sous-chef at Beast on Tecumseth

The Food: Cheap, inventive bar snacks. A basket of nachos subs house-fried wontons and braised beef for typical chips and chili, and jumbo chicken wings are spiced with fruity scotch bonnets (or, for the truly intrepid, suicide-style ghost peppers). For $18 a head, Sunday’s tailgate brunch brings a Southern-style feast of hush puppies, pork ribs and blood sausage rolls.

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