Saturday, 8 September 2012


In Ontario we have the LCBO, the liquor control board of Ontario. All liquor, beer and wine sales come under the Government of Ontario strict control, demon liquor must be regulated. That tells you we got Protestants in charge here. This State monopoly like the one across the river in Quebec at La Régie des alcools brings in mega bucks for the government. The profits go into financing our socialize medical system and other services. Prior to 1990 the LCBO stores had a system where the hours of operations were not convenient and buying any liquor made you feel as if you were a sinner. Liquor was sold in plain brown paper bags, if someone saw you with a paper bag, you know like your neighbour who was big in your church group well, people would talk. The stores themselves were out of the way and when you went in there was a long counter behind it the store clerk and a metal cage where all the liquor was kept. You filled out a paper form with a pencil not a pen, a pencil. You indicated how many bottles you were buying and what you wanted, you signed the form and brought it up to the cash register to pay in cash only. The store clerk would go into the cage to get those items of demon liquor you had bought. A strict control was kept and you knew the government was keeping a eye on you and your sinful ways. Unless you drank for medicinal purposes, a doctors paper would vouch for your health condition.

It was also and still is prohibited from drinking on the street. If you drank at home you had to make sure the curtains of your house front window were firmly and tightly shut in case your neighbours would see you drinking or worse their children and be scarred for life by your sin. Neighbours did call the police on such people who ignored the law. There were also days in the year the sale of liquor was prohibited, Sunday (The Lord's Day Act), Election day, major holidays and it was and still is forbidden to sell any alcohol before 11 am or after 1am, it use to be 11pm until very recently.

In Quebec things were a lot more relaxed, ah those Quebecois always rocking our Canadian boat. You can drink at any time, Sunday, Election day, or any day as early as 6 am. The breakfast of champions in Quebec is a good beer and corn flakes in the morning. Bars never close before 3am. You can buy wine and beer in grocery stores, Quebec is Roman Catholic and French, that explains it I suppose, loose morals and all that.

Living in Ottawa, the Capital of the great and first Dominion of the British Empire, if you wanted a drink, a bit of fun and a good meal you went across the bridge to Gatineau-Hull. In Quebec we invented the institution of the Businessmen's Lunch which meant a hearty meal, a good drink and a stripper. No such thing to this day in prudish, tight lipped and frowning Ontario.
All that started to change slowly in Ontario around the turn  of the millennium. Ottawa is becoming a little more hip and with it and so is the rest of Ontario, this includes Toronto the good, well not so much anymore now that it has the title of the Detroit of the North.

But I digress, the LCBO has changed from the pre-historic time, the stores now have a modern friendly look and offer a wide range of products, they also have very good wine appreciation courses, cooking courses and wine pairing courses. The depot on South Bank street has a wide selection of excellent wines and liquor, our local liquor store just a few doors down from our place is smaller but has a good choice of liquor and wines. The beer store offers Canadian and international choices of beers.

The LCBO also has a very slick glossy magazine in both French and English on food and wines, beautiful photography and great recipes that are easy to follow and easy to make. Not to mention the other magazine VINTAGES which offers a lot of useful information on cocktail mix and wines. This month Vintages has an excellent article on Sake from Japan and how to pair it with food.
Another article on Rhone Valley wines and on Washington State and Oregon wines. All complimented with great photography. Who would have thought that in Calvinist, Orange Lodge Ontario such humanistic pursuits would ever see the light of day.

Look for  or

In the fall edition of Vintages you can find such items on how to create ambiance for  a dinner, new products at the LCBO store, they recommend Hendrick's gin, recipes on preserves since Canadian Thanksgiving is just around the corner, they propose a butter of pumpkin and maple syrup. They also have recommendations on Ontario wines, we do have excellent wines in Ontario, I can vouch for it.
They also have recipes for late summer cocktails like a Martini of peaches and apricots, two fruits from the Niagara Peninsula, or cocktails made from bubbly Rosé or a Kir Impérial of Niagara with raspberries. There are also recipes for hot cocktail mixing White Jasmin tea with a single malt scotch and a bit of honey.
In the food section Baked apple cardamon or Lamb Tajine or a Veal cutlet with Madeira and dried raisins.  They also have a whole section on Bourbon. There is so much more on fish and desserts.
This beautiful magazine is free at the LCBO.

A funny little story, when I came to Ottawa over a year ago to look for lodgings for the family, one selling point the Real Estate agent used was that we were not far from the Liquor store. I thought that comment funny, I asked what he meant, he answered well most clients want to know how close is the school for the kids and where is the nearest Liquor store, two of the most commonly asked questions in real estate. Children drive you to drink, that explains a lot of things.

The Gazebo at Niagara-on-the-Lake, on lake Ontario and the Niagara river.



  1. Having just learned about Canadian whisky, and keen to get to NOTL for the wines, I was keen to get to LCBO. As an auslander, I found them well stocked, 'friendly', and impressive, not at all a government looking place.
    Only caveat - everything was so much $$. Even the local booze was 10-40 dollars more than GETTING IT BACK HOME IN ARIZONA????
    I limited my purchases to things I can't get home: Collingwood and White Owl. Bless the LCBO !!

    1. In general in Canada liquor is more expensive than in the USA because of the taxes, but it provides for social services so we don't complain too much.

  2. So what you're saying is that Ontario has finally taken the stick out of its ass and unbent a little? Here in Alberta, selling booze has been privatized so no more government-operated stores. But consumption is still regulated, of course.

  3. I remember when I was in Calgary a few years ago that it was private and I think you had a good selection.

  4. I heartily second their recommendation of Hendricks. Be sure to serve it with cucumber rather than citrus.

  5. OK I will try that combination.