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Good news for The Beer Store, for once

(Image: Gary J. Wood)

(Image: Gary J. Wood)

We’re not certain that the “all press is good press” maxim currently applies to The Beer Store. Ontario’s favourite only major beer merchant has been getting a good whipping in the media lately, thanks largely to the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, which has been rallying hard to get alcohol sales wrested from the cold, corporate grips of the multinational cartel. Today, though, there’s a feel-good story that the Beer Store really wants you to know about.

According to a recent press release, the conglomerate has figured out a way to help small craft brewers, like Toronto newbie Left Field, circumvent a somewhat arbitrary-seeming rule under the Ontario Liquor License Act that prohibits contract brewers (i.e. start-ups that don’t operate their own breweries) from selling beer at festivals and other events. The Beer Store is instituting a new sales process that will let the little guys sell their suds in a way that meets provincial standards. As for why The Beer Store decided to step in, president Ted Moroz had this to say: “We are huge supporters of all Ontario-based brewers including those in the rapidly growing craft beer business.” So, the takeaway is: The Beer Store is a lover and helper of Ontario craft brewers. Of course it is.

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Six ways with rum, from The County General’s Jeff Carroll

The pirate’s grog is making a comeback. Here, County General bartender Jeff Carroll concocts his favourite rum cocktails, with fun new twists

Six ways with rum

1 | Dr. Painkiller (pictured)
Shake 2 oz El Dorado Deluxe Silver rum, 1 oz fresh lime juice, ¾ oz grenadine, 3 drops Fee Brothers cranberry bitters, 2 slices muddled cucumber and a handful of cranberries with ice. Pour into a 16-oz Mason jar. Top with ginger beer and garnish with shaved ginger.

2 | Wake-Up Call
Shake 1 ¼ oz El Dorado Deluxe Silver rum, 1 oz chilled espresso and 1 oz Kahlua with ice. Double-strain into a coupe. Garnish with three espresso beans.

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Cinqo Drinkos: five inspired Toronto takes on the classic Mexican margarita

(Image: Neil Conway/Flickr)

(Image: Neil Conway/Flickr)

There are few things more quintessentially Mexican—or more dangerously refreshing—than the margarita, a time-honoured mix of tequila, triple sec and lime. Lately, Toronto cocktail gurus have been playing fast-and-loose with the classic cocktail, adding unusual ingredients like tamarind, chili peppers and fermented tea. Here, in honour of Cinqo de Mayo (it’s today!), five great (if not entirely authentic) ways to take your tequila.

1. Fonda Lola
Fonda’s take on the drink wins extra points for inventiveness: it comes mixed with fermented black tea (i.e. kombucha) and horchata, a milky Latin American drink flavoured with vanilla and cinnamon. $10.50
942 Queen St. W., 647-706-9105

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The Informer

Municipal Election 2014

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Semi-important question: what do 2014’s mayoral candidates like to drink?

mayoral-candidates

We might not typically judge a candidate for public office based on his or her drink of choice, but considering how much we know about our current mayor’s drinking preferences—whether it be a few beers at a Leafs game, an early-morning bottle of brandy at his office, or just a few Iceberg vodkas and Tropicana grape juices with an old friend in the park—it seems only fair that we ask those who seek to unseat Rob Ford what beverages they turn to after a hard day of arguing about who did or didn’t actually save the city a billion dollars.

Sure, there are far more important issues, but there’s also something to be said for getting the candidates off their scripted talking points. There are few things more personal than how someone chooses to unwind.

And so, with that in mind, here’s what the top contenders for mayor like to drink, along with some wild speculation about what their choices say about how they might govern if they win.


stintz-martini
Candidate: Karen Stintz

Beverage of choice: Hendricks gin martini with three olives

Analysis: Interestingly, despite her often indecisive approach to policy (see: changing her mind on light rail and the island airport expansion), this answer is unequivocal: Karen Stintz knows what she wants to drink, right down to the brand of gin and even the amount of olives. It’s a classy (and delicious) drink but, tellingly, it’s one that’s often associated with urban sophisticates. In some ways, then, the choice of a martini speaks to the identity crisis Stintz has faced as she has tried to bridge the divide between urban and suburban voters—a struggle best exemplified by her now infamous “I’m like you” tweet.

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The Dish

Drinks

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VIDEO: The Beer Store’s new PSA-style commercial warns about the dangers of corner-store booze sales

With pro-privatization sentiment at an all-time high in Ontario, The Beer Store may be feeling a bit threatened. That could explain this new PSA-style commercial, embedded above, in which the booze conglomerate employs the tried-and-tested “won’t somebody think of the children” approach to justifying its near-monopoly on Ontario beer sales. In the 30-second video, four-time world curling champ Glenn Howard (who apparently now runs a Beer Store outlet—and appears at first glance to be wearing a cop uniform) talks about the conglomerate’s great track record when it comes to checking IDs and not selling booze to really drunk people—the clear implication being that wresting booze control from the hands of the foreign-owned cartel would lead to lots of drunk minors and other unpleasant havoc. The ad is part of the Beer Store’s multi-pronged approach to rebutting claims made by the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, which has been lobbying hard for beer and liquor sales in corner stores

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Smaller grocers decry province’s LCBO Express proposal

(Image: Karl Baron)

(Image: Karl Baron)

Yesterday, Ontario finance minister Charles Sousa announced a pilot program that would have ten LCBO Express kiosks installed inside Ontario grocery stores, in a yet another half-measure designed to give Ontarians the freer access to booze they so desperately crave. Today, smaller retailers are saying that the plan could hurt their bottom line.

“We don’t want the LCBO to stand for Loblaw Control Board of Ontario,” vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers Gary Sands told the Globe. As it stands, the proposal only applies to stores that are at least 15,000 square feet, which categorically disqualifies smaller shops from stocking beer, wine and spirits.

Sousa, for his part, holds that the Express pilot program could be expanded to include these smaller, independent retailers, calling the plan “just a first step.”

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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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Openings

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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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