TORONTO - Ontario's convenience stores launched another bid Wednesday for permission to sell beer and wine, and found at least one party leader willing to consider the idea.
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association released a petition with 112,500 signatures gathered across the province supporting the idea of broader retail availability of beer and wine.
"Ontarians have spoken very clearly and they are not happy with the antiquated alcohol retailing system we have in Ontario," said association CEO Dave Bryans.
"They're responsible adults who want the simple convenience of leaving the car at home and walking to their neighbourhood store to get wine for dinner or drinks for the barbecue."
The petition was started by Joanne McMurchy, who runs the General Store in the hamlet of Vanessa, south of Brantford, where some of the 80 local residents complained they have to drive 20 minutes to get to a liquor store.
"My customers were persistently asking...was there any chance that beer would come to the store," McMurchy said at a press conference.
"So I decided that I would take people's names down that had requested this persistently over the past couple of years and then made up this petition."
Former Liberal premier David Peterson promised to allow corner stores to sell beer and wine in the 1980s, but it never happened, and the current Liberal government has no plans to change the rules.
"The current system balances access for both customers and suppliers with social responsibility," said Aly Vitunski, press secretary for Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
"We take the concerns of convenience store owners seriously, but we believe the current system of selling liquor is an effective way to guard the public interest."
The LCBO turned over a record $1.63 billion dividend to the Ontario government for 2010-11 after sales of $4.7 billion.
The Progressive Conservatives said Wednesday it was time the province re-examined its role in the liquor business.
"Are the old solutions from the 1930s and '40s that the government should run the alcohol business in the province from top to bottom appropriate in the 21st century," asked PC Leader Tim Hudak.
The NDP has consistently opposed the sale of beer and wine in corner stores.
"The LCBO can always be improved but it’s a pretty good system that provides a good service, protects minors from alcohol and contributes over $1.5 billion every year to running our schools and our hospitals," said NDP critic Rosario Marchese.
"I think our priority should be making the system work better, not new schemes that make it easier for young people to get their hands on alcohol."
The last Conservative government talked about privatizing the LCBO but never followed through with the idea, while the Liberals too toyed with some sort of privatization before rejecting it.
Hudak said the Tories dropped the idea in the 1990s because the LCBO extended its hours and started opening on Sundays, but admitted the idea of competition from corner stores has some appeal.
"I’ve been a long proponent of some kind of choice in the system," he said.
"I think any time you have a monopoly that means you don’t get the service (and) it’s more expensive than it would be otherwise," Hudak said.
Convenience stores already sell alcohol in 214 Ontario communities that are too small for a regular LCBO outlet or a Beer Store, said Bryans.
"It makes no sense to anyone, and it's actually just total control," he said.
"Those that live in bigger centres suffer the most and those in rural communities can go to local convenience store and buy their alcohol beverage, and we do a very good job in those communities."
Corner stores already sell age-restricted products, including tobacco and lottery tickets, and would implement even tougher standards if they get approval to sell beer and wine, said Bryans.
"We are the biggest seller of age restricted products...much bigger than any government-controlled agency," he said.
"And we actually do a better job at age testing."
Mirto - Sardinia
<em>How it's made</em> - Mirto is described as a blueberry liqueur, and it is made from myrtle berries and either honey or syrup. Myrtle is made from the berries of Myrtus Communis plant, which is native to the Mediterranean. <em>Where you can get it</em> - Sardinia is your best bet for obtaining an authentic bottle of mirto. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Similar to grappa, the other Italian liqueur on this list, mirto is served as an after dinner drink to help aid in the digestive process. It is considered an important part of Sardinian tradition and has even been known to have some healing powers. <em>Find out <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-07/8-reasons-to-explore-sardinias-secrets.html">8 Reasons to Explore Sardinia's Secrets</a> and learn <a href="http://www.italylogue.com/planning-a-trip/how-to-get-from-italy-to-sardinia-and-vice-versa.html">how to get to Sardinia</a>.</em>
Brennivin - Iceland
<em>How it's made</em> - Brennivin is a type of schnapps made from fermented potato mash. The fermented potatoes are mixed with carraway seeds to produce a potent liqueur. <em>Where you can get it</em> - Brennivin is considered to be Iceland's signature liquor, though many locals don't regularly drink it (it is associated with alcoholism). <em>Why it's popular</em> - As the national drink of Iceland, it is also the traditional drink of a big mid-winter festival in Iceland. The nickname <em>Black Death</em> is pretty intriguing as well. <em>Read about <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-08/9-incredible-experiences-in-iceland.html">9 Incredible Things to Experience in Iceland</a> and check out these <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-10/10-reasons-to-visit-iceland-now.html">10 Reasons to Visit Iceland Now</a>.</em>
Sazerac - New Orleans
<em>How it's made</em> - A sazerac is a variation of an old fashioned, with the main ingredient being rye whiskey. There is a traditional way of making a sazerac, so pay attention. Pack a rocks glass with ice. Take another rocks glass, moisten a sugar cube with water, then crush it. Then blend the sugar with rye whiskey and bitters before adding ice and stirring. Now you're about half-way there. Toss out the ice from the first glass and pour in Herbsaint (an anise-flavored liquor), coating the inside of the glass before discarding the excess. Then strain the whiskey into the Herbsaint coated glass, twisting some lemon peel over it so the oil makes it way through the drink. You can rub the peel over the rim of the glass, but whatever you do, don't put the twist in the drink. Its' considered sacrilege. <em>Where you can get it</em> - While you can get a Sazerac in many places in the US now, it's a traditional New Orleans drink. <em>Why it's popular</em> - The sazerac has been popular in New Orleans since pre-Civil War times. If you plan on trying a new cocktail that a certain city is famous for, New Orleans should be the city you do it in. <em>Check out these <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-05/new-orleans-travel-tips.html">Travel Tips for New Orleans</a> and this <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/09-05/new-orleans-cemeteries-photo-tour.html">Photo Tour of New Orleans</a>. Find out why you should <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/rtw/destinations-na-neworleans.html">add New Orleans to your RTW trip itinerary</a>.</em>
Coffee Punch - Denmark
<em>How it's made</em> - First, you take a cup and put a coin in it. You then pour coffee in the cup until you cannot see the coin anymore. Finally, add schnapps until the coin is visible again. In Danish it's referred to as kaffepunch. <em>Where you can get it</em> - This is perhaps the most interesting drink that I came across. A Danish friend alterted me to this drink that is from a small island called Fano off the Esbjerg coast of Denmark. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Kaffepunch is quite strong, and it is becoming an increasingly popular drink to ring in the New Year. <em>Check out our <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/Europe-Denmark">Denmark Travel Guide</a> and search for <a href="http://hostels.bootsnall.com/Europe-Denmark.html">hostels in Denmark</a>.</em>
Kava - Vanuatu/Fiji
<em>How it's made</em> - The traditional way to prepare kava is to chew the roots of the kava plant, combine it with water, and consume. It is said to produce a very relaxing feeling, almost like a sedative. <em>Where you can get it</em> - Kava is best known in the Pacific Island nations of Vanuatu and Fiji, but you can find kava throughout the South Pacific, in Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and even Hawaii. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Kava has been used for generations throughout the South Pacific for medicinal, religious, and cultural purposes. It's often used in social situations like many other drinks. <em>Explore both the <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/Pacific-Islands-Vanuatu">Vanuatu Travel Guide</a> and the <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/Pacific-Islands-Fiji">Fiji Travel Guide</a>.</em>
Grappa - Italy
<em>How it's made</em> - Grappa is similar to raki in Turkey, as it's made by distilling the leftovers of the grape after pressing it to make wine. What results is a grape based type of brandy, whose taste and strength varies based on the maker. Grappa is usually served as an after dinner drink. It can be added to coffee or espresso. <em>Where you can get it</em> - In order to get true grappa, it must be produced in Italy, San Marino, or the Italian part of Switzerland. It must also be produced from pomace, with the fermentation process occurring on the pomace with no additional water. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Grappa has been around Italy for hundreds of years, since the Middle Ages. It was originally made so as to not waste any part of the grape. It was popular among the poor people of Italy, and the strength was enough to get them through the winter. Grappa is popular with all classes of people now, and it is said to aid in the digestion process after a meal. <em>Learn about the <a href="http://www.italylogue.com/featured-articles/italian-coffee-101-a-guide-vocabulary-list.html">coffee drink in Italy</a> that comes with a shot of grappa and check out these <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-03/italy-trip-planning-resources.html">24 Resources You'll Want When Planning a Trip to Italy</a>.</em>
Raki - Turkey
<em>How it's made</em> - Raki is an unsweetened liqueur that has a strong anise flavor. It's from the skin, pulp, seeds, and skin of grapes - what remained of the grape after it was used to make wine. It's typically served early in the meal with appetizers. It is traditionally served either straight with some water on the side or diluted with chilled water, depending on your preference. When combining raki with water, it turns milky white. <em>Where you can get it</em> - Raki is known as the national drink of Turkey, though you can also find it in Greece, Serbia, and other Balkan countries. <em>Why it's popular</em> - It was originally established as an alternative to absinthe, and if a drink is compared to absinthe, why would it not be popular? <em>Find out how to <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-11/eat-your-way-around-istanbul.html">Eat Your Way Around Istanbul</a> and read about <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-12/ten-incredible-things-to-do-and-see-in-turkey-2.html">Ten Experiences Not to Miss in Turkey</a>.</em>
The Sourtoe Cocktail - Dawson, Canada
<em>How it's made</em> - I debated adding this one to the list, but the zaniness and nastiness of the whole thing just forced my hand. Here's how it's <em>made</em>: Choose a drink, any drink, and the bartender at this establishment will add one severed toe to your drink. Yes, that's right, I said severed toe. A severed human toe will be added to your drink. They keep said toes stored in salt when they aren't being used to garnish drinks. In order to gain acceptance into the <a href="http://www.sourtoecocktailclub.com/">Sourtoe Cocktail Club</a>, you must drink your drink, and your lips <em>must</em> touch the toe. <em>Where you can get it</em> - You can only have the severed toe cocktail at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson, Canada, located just below the Arctic Circle. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Um, because it has a severed toe in it. <em>Check out the <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/North-America-Canada-Yukon-Territory">Yukon Territory Travel Guide</a>.</em>
Hirezake - Japan
<em>How it's made</em> - I've seen this described as both a dish you can eat and a shot you can drink. It's made by taking the extremely poisonous puffer fish/fugu/blowfish fin, crisping it, and placing it in hot sake. <em>Where you can get it</em> - The fugu fish is served throughout Japan, but it's regulated because of the toxicity of the fish and the to protect it from depletion. I've also seen this drink served in sushi restaurants in the US. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Who doesn't want to say they tried something that can legitimately kill them? That's a pretty bad-ass story to tell. <em><a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-01/discover-an-unexpected-side-of-japan-in-okinawa.html">Discover an Unexpected Side of Japan in Okinawa</a> and find out <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-01/11-ways-to-save-big-on-a-trip-to-japan.html">11 Ways to Save Big on a Trip to Japan</a>.</em>
Lambanog - Philippines
<em>How it's made</em> - Lambanog is a spirit that is made from the sap of unopened coconut flowers. The sap is distilled, making a coconut wine or vodka. The alcohol content is said to approach 45%. <em>Where you can get it</em> - Lambanog can be found all over the Philippines, but it is produced in distilleries in the Quezon province of Luzon. There are similar spirits made from the sap of unopened coconut flowers throughout the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. They are called by different names, but they are all very similar. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Drinking lambanog was originally done as a communal activity, but now it's marketed like any other popular drink is. The fact that it can be super cheap and extremely strong doesn't hurt its popularity. <em>Read about what to do if you only have <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-12/24-hours-in-puerto-princesa-palawan-philippines.html">24 Hours in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines</a> and check out our <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/asia-philippines">Philippines Travel Guide</a>.</em>
Springbok - South Africa
<em>How it's made</em> - A springbok is typically served as a shot. Simply pour 1 measure of creme de menthe in a shot glass. Slowly add one measure of of amarula cream on top of that. They should stay separated, but if not, use the back of a spoon when pouring the cream to make sure they don't mix. <em>Where you can get it</em> - The springbok is popular in South Africa, where you can also find an animal of the same name (and where the drink gets its name from). There is even a drinking game with the springbok. <em>Why it's popular</em> - The springbok is said to be the national shot of South Africa (I didn't realize nations had designated shots, but who am I to argue?). If you find yourself in South Africa and about to imbibe in a springbok, you may be asked to take part in a little drinking game. It involves placing both hands behind your back, stomping your feet, snorting through your nostrils, squealing, then doing the shot without using your hands. <em>Read about <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-09/on-safari-in-kruger-national-park-south-africa.html">Going on Safari in Kruger National Park</a> and find out about <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-06/8-excellent-experiences-in-south-africa-other-than-the-world-cup.html">8 Excellent Experiences in South Africa</a>.</em>
Mama Juana - Dominican Republic
<em>How it's made</em> - Mama Juana is made by combining rum, red wine, and honey with tree bark and herbs and allowing them to marry in a bottle. Mama Juana has been compared to port wine and is typically served as a shot. <em>Where you can get it</em> - Mama Juana is a drink made in the Dominican Republic, and you can find it all over the island. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Mama Juana has been consumed for medicinal purposes, but it's also said to be an aphrodisiac. Either is reason enough for me to give it a try. <em>Check out our <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/Caribbean-Dominican-Republic">Dominican Republic Travel Guide</a> and find <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/internationalairfare/caribbean/dominican-republic.shtml">cheap airfare to the Dominican Republic</a>.</em>
The Painkiller - Caribbean
<em>How it's made</em> - Painkillers are typically made with premium dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice, and topped with grenadian nutmeg. <em>Where you can get it</em> - The painkiller is popular in the Caribbean, especially the Virgin Islands. Many bars in both the US and British Virgin Islands serve their version of a painkiller. The Soggy Dollar Bar in Jost Van Dyke, an island near Tortola and St. Thomas, claim to be the creators of the famous drink. <em>Why it's popular</em> - When you think of lounging on a tropical island, what do you envision? Chances are rum, coconut, and fresh fruit juices come to mind, so you might as well combine them all into one drink. <em>Find out <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-01/how-to-tell-which-virgin-island-is-right-for-you.html">Which Virgin Island is Right for You</a> and find out why the <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-09/british-virgin-islands-%E2%80%93-a-paradise-waiting-to-be-discovered.html">British Virgin Islands are a Paradise Waiting to be Discovered</a>.</em>
Raicilla - Mexico
<em>How it's made</em> - Raicilla is like a moonshine, a distilled spirit that has some similarities to tequila as it is also made from the agave plant. <em>Where you can get it</em> - It originated in the southwest of Jalisco, a state in Mexico, but you can find raicilla all around Mexico, particularly in and around the popular city of Puerto Vallarta. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Any type of moonshine is going to come with a certain appeal, and raicilla is no different. It's a great local liquor to try that is unique and actually pretty tasty. It can pack a punch, though. <em>Read the <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-12/featured-traveler-jessica-in-mazatlan.html">Traveler Postcard - Jessica in Mazaltan</a> and <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-05/why-mexico-should-be-the-next-country-you-visit.html">Why Mexico Should Be the Next Country You Visit</a>.</em>
Snake Blood and Rice Wine - Southeast Asia/China
<em>How it's made</em> - You make it just how it sounds, by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol. If you want to take it a step further, you can mix fluids of the snake - blood and bile - with the rice wine and consume immediately as a shot. <em>Where you can get it</em> - Like bia hoi, snake blood and rice wine can be found throughout Vietnam, most of Southeast Asia, and China. It's not hard to miss, as you'll typically see large jars filled with a liquid of some sort with snakes in it. <em>Why it's popular</em> - The craziness of drinking snake blood is what draws tourists to try it out, but it has traditionally been drunk because the snake has long been considered a healthy animal to consume and has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. <em>Read about the <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-08/the-many-weird-fruits-of-southeast-asia.html">Many Weird Fruits of Southeast Asia</a> and <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/09-10/cheap-southeast-asia-how-to-pretend-youre-rich-in-bangkok.html">How to Pretend You're Rich in Bangkok</a>.</em>
Bia Hoi - Vietnam
<em>How it's made</em> - Bia hoi is the term given to beer brewed in Vietnam. It's a very light home-brewed beer available all over the country. What makes it unique is that it's different every place you get it, coming in small batches. <em>Where you can get it</em> - All over the country. Simply look for the hand-written cardboard signs that say <em>Bia Hoi</em>. It is usually served in hole in the wall, makeshift bars and small restaurants. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Because of the ridiculously low cost. You can find bia hoi for the equivalent of a quarter throughout the country. Finding a tiny, open-air bar and sampling some bia hoi after walking around in the heat of Vietnam is the perfect break to your day. <em>Check out our <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/Asia-Vietnam">Vietnam Travel Guide</a> and find out <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-08/custom-clothes-in-hoi-ann.html">How to Have Custom Clothes Made in Hoi An, Vietnam</a>.</em>
Guaro - Costa Rica
<em>How it's made</em> - Guaro is a liquor distilled from sugar cane and usually served as a shot with a slice of lime. <em>Where you can get it</em> - You can get guaro throughout Central America, but it's quickly becoming the national drink in Costa Rica. The government actually nationalized the manufacture of guaro, and the only <em>legal</em> brand is Cacique Guaro. <em>Why it's popular</em> - It's cheap and versatile. While the traditional way of drinking it is to shoot it, guaro is also used in many mixed drinks. <em>If you're going to Costa Rica, read about <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/11-04/photo-essay-water-sports-in-costa-rica.html">7 Wet and Wild Ways to Experience Costa Rica</a> and find out what to do if you only have <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-03/five-days-in-costa-rica.html">5 Days in Costa Rica</a>.</em>
Pisco Sour - Peru
<em>How it's made</em> - A pisco sour is made with pisco (a spirit popular in South America), lime juice, simple syrup, bitters, and an egg white. <em>Where you can get it</em> - You can find pisco sours throughout much of South America. The origin is contested, as both Peru and Chile lay claim to the pisco sour. <em>Why it's popular</em> - Simply put, it's delicious. The flavor and strength of the pisco, the sweetness of the simple syrup, the citrus from the limes, and the frothiness from the egg white all combine to make a wonderful concoction of goodness.
Terremoto - Chile
<em>How it's made</em> - Terremotos are made with white wine, fernet (an Argentinian spirit), and pineapple ice cream. <em>Where you can get it</em> - We were told that the only place to get a real terremoto (spanish translation: earthquake) is at La Piojera in Santiago, Chile. It is a dive bar located near the Mercado Central. <em>Why it's popular</em> - I don't think there's much that's traditional about this drink, but despite the odd ingredients, it's delicious and packs a punch. If you have more than one, you better take a cab back to your hostel or hotel. <em>Check out our <a href="http://adventures.bootsnall.com/destinations/south-america/chile/">Chile adventure trips</a> and look at various <a href="http://hostels.bootsnall.com/South-America-Chile.html">hostels in Chile</a>.</em>
Chicha - Peru
<em>How it's made</em> - In some countries where chicha is popular, maize (corn) is fermented in large vessels. In Peru, the traditional way to make chicha is to ground purple maize and chew on it, moistening it with saliva. There are natural enzymes in human saliva that convert the starch to sugar so it can ferment. The drink is then made from the fermented corn combined with other ingredients. The drink is cloudy, somewhat sour, and seems a bit carbonated. The longer it ferments, the stronger it is, and traditionally chicha should be made by women so as to not offend the mountain gods and corn goddess. <em>Where you can get it</em> - You can get chicha all over Peru, but most is not prepared in the traditional way by chewing the corn. If you want it made the traditional way, you may come across it in more rural areas or while on a trek. We sampled chicha in a village in the bottom of Colca Canyon. <em>Why it's popular</em> - The Incas used chicha for rituals and during religious festival, and because Incan culture is still very important in many areas of Peru, the drink lives on. <em>If Peru is on your travel wish list, read our <a href="http://www.bootsnall.com/South-America-Peru">Peru Travel Guide</a> and check out the <a href="http://adventures.bootsnall.com/destinations/south-america/peru/">Peru Adventure Trips</a> we offer.</em>