Where can you find the cheapest booze in Canada? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for.
In many categories, the best deals on house party staples can be found in Quebec. This, despite the fact that Alberta is the only province with an entirely privatized retail liquor industry and the lowest taxes (5 percent) on alcohol to boot. Provincial and sales taxes in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec range from 13-15 percent––which is more than double the amount added to booze prices in Alberta, which has no provincial sales tax.
To allow for a true apples-to-apples comparison, we stuck to provinces that include the country’s major urban centres. We also limited ourselves to house party staples like wine, whisky, vodka, rum and beer.
And yes, we know you can get wine or beer at places other than the government-controlled outlets in many parts of the country (Loblaw was offering No Name beer for $1 a bottle last weekend in Ontario), but when it comes to the recognizable staple brands of booze––specifically hard liquor––most people have no choice but to go to provincially-run monopolies such as the LCBO in Ontario, SAQ in Quebec, and British Columbia’s BC Liquor Store.
To keep the comparison fair, we limited our look at Alberta to the Liquor Depot because it’s a good benchmark for prices across the province (not as deeply discounted as a big box grocery store, and not as much of a mark-up as a really niche shop). Check it out:
Veuve Clicquot - Brut Yellow Label (375 mL bottle)
Best deal: Quebec (SAQ) $41.00
E&J Gallo - White Zinfandel (750 mL bottle)
Best deal: Ontario (LCBO) $9.95 and Quebec (SAQ) $9.95
Fuzion - Shiraz/Malbec (750 mL bottle)
Best deal: Ontario (LCBO) $9.45
Whisky (but you probably call it ‘rye’)
Crown Royal - Blended Canadian Whisky (750 mL bottle)
Best deal: Alberta (Liquor Depot) $28.33
Absolut (375 mL bottle)
Best deal: (BC Liquor Store) $14.93
Captain Morgan - white rum (1.14 L bottle)
Best deal: Quebec (SAQ) $30.50
Pabst Blue Ribbon (8 355 mL cans)
Ontario: $13.25 (based on the price of $9.95 for a 6-pack)
Best deal: Quebec (based on the price of $17.06 for a 12-pack in a Montreal grocery store) $11.36
If you were to pick up these five items (champagne, whisky, vodka, rum and beer only, we had to omit the wines because even the most popular brands aren’t available everywhere) in these five urban centres, here’s how much your total bill would come to:
The price difference between the most expensive city (Vancouver) and the least expensive (Montreal) is $19.77, or nearly 14 percent of your Vancouver bill. It really boils down to what you’re looking for. Picking up a bottle of French bubbly or certain types of beer is cheapest in Quebec, while some brands of rose and red wine are cheaper in Ontario. Getting the key ingredients for vodka sodas are a deal in B.C. but Alberta is your go-to for inexpensive DIY rye and Cokes.
All of this is a look regular prices, but sales can be a good time to stock up on your favourites. In select markets, membership and volume discounts can be a good way to save, especially if you pool your alcohol purchases with friends.
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