EDMONTON – As the demand to prepare original, inventive cocktails grows in Alberta, some bartenders believe an Alberta liquor policy is tying their hands, creatively speaking.
“We have to work around these rules,” said Brady Grumpelt, manager and instructor at Edmonton’s Fine Art Bartending School.
“There are definitely things that I would like to be doing but I simply can’t.”
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According to the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission, “it is prohibited to adulterate or alter liquor in any way. Nothing may be added (including ice, mixes or flavouring agents) until the liquor is used to prepare a drink requested by a patron.”
The main concern with the policy for bartenders is the fact they aren’t able to infuse their own liquors.
“As a bartender, it limits our creativity a little bit,” said Grumpelt. “Being limited to only certain pre-made brands really holds back on what we’re able to give to the customers as an experience.”
Grumpelt says if Alberta bartenders were able to infuse their own liquors, it would drastically increase the variety of customized cocktails they’re able to offer customers.
“We can age cocktails for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks; and that is one of the methods that is very popular down in the States, out in Vancouver, Toronto and we’re just not able to do it here,” Grumpelt said, recalling a barrel-aged Manhattan he really enjoyed while in Victoria.
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The policy came under review a couple of years ago, but was found to be appropriate for protecting the health and safety of consumers, according to the AGLC. A spokesperson with the AGLC says it’s also important to ensure consumers know exactly what they’re putting in their bodies.
“The concern is – with mixing liquor products or adding food or any kind of additive – it does change the composition and level of alcohol in the product,” said Tatjana Laskovic, a spokesperson with the AGLC.
“The goal is to be responsive to industry and consumer trends, but we also need to balance that with social responsibility.”
However, Grumpelt maintains that – if done correctly – infusing liquor doesn’t drastically alter the alcohol content.
“This is just another regulation that’s thrown on there which ultimately just ties bartenders’ hands.”
According to the province, 76 per cent of Albertans consume alcohol; and the province leads the way nationally in alcohol sales growth.
Earlier this summer the AGLC said it was in the process of preparing a broad-based review of liquor laws and policies in the province, which were last overhauled in 2008.