Planning a visit to Canada and want to know if you’re old enough to drink in Ontario or BC? Or maybe you’re just a Canadian who wants all the provincial laws listed in one place. Either way, we’ve got you covered: here’s your guide to drinking in each Canadian province including provincial liquor laws.
As a Canadian, I’m always surprised to learn not just that you have to be 21 to drink in the US but also that each province has a different drinking age. Having only lived in Alberta and then Manitoba, I’ve always assumed it’s 18 everywhere. Not true! In fact, there are only three provinces that you can drink at that age in.
Disclaimer: This is written as a general guide only. Be sure to check each jurisdiction’s laws for up to date information before travelling. It should also be noted that this guide is about alcohol – marijuana (which is legal) may be have different age restrictions to purchase.
How Old Do I Have to be to Drink in Canada?
Short answer: 19. This is the minimum drinking age in Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon.
If you’re 19 you’ll be able to purchase alcohol and order drinks at bars and restaurants in every Canadian province and territory.
These laws only apply to the purchase of alcohol, though. Most provinces allow underage youth to enjoy a drink at home (and sometime even out) if that alcohol is purchased and served by a parent or guardian.
What Age for Wine Tasting in BC?
If you’re thinking of going wine tasting in BC to check out the Okanagan valley or some icewine you’ll have to wait until you’re 19. Don’t forget to bring your ID along too!
What’s the Drinking Age in Toronto?
Still 19, Toronto is in Ontario. Since this is a popular tourist destination for American travellers I felt it was worth mentioning on its own.
Where Can I Drink at 18 in Canada?
There are three places you can drink at 18 years old in Canada: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. This is one of the reasons that makes Quebec a popular tourist destination for both American youth and Ontario citizens alike.
Drinking Culture in Canada
Now that you know what age you can drink in Canada based on provincial liquor laws I thought I’d talk a bit about what it’s like to enjoy alcohol in Canada. Many aspects of Canadian drinking culture mirrors the US and other western countries. For example, we have plenty of bars, pubs, lounges, licensed restaurants, parties, etc.
However, at least in my experience, our general approach to alcohol is a lot more European. But with one exception: Canadians love their beer!
What do I mean by that? Well, probably in part thanks to younger minimum drinking ages, we don’t consider drinking to be a big taboo. There are also fewer Canadians that practice religions that forbid alcohol, like Mormons.
Don’t believe me? Here’s some interesting Canadian alcohol facts for you.
We Have No Name Beer
If you haven’t heard of it yet, No Name is our biggest grocery store’s Canada-famous store brand. It’s marked by iconic bright yellow packaging and bold words of what the product is. Typically there are no product pictures. It’s now a Canadian icon.
While you can’t get it everywhere in Canada, No Name started selling “beer” a few years back. It’s cheap, and from what I hear actually pretty good.
IKEA Serves Beer and Wine
I did a little digging and apparently this isn’t commonplace at IKEAs around the world. Although you do see it in Europe, I couldn’t find any info about the US and as far as I can tell, you’re not able to enjoy a beer with your Swedish meatballs in their restaurants.
Apparently We Drink an Above Average of Alcohol in Canada
This study is a bit old (2017) but still very interesting – apparently Canadians drink, on average, 10 litres of pure alcohol per person (aged 15 and over). This is 3.6 times more than the worldwide average.
While it leaves us trailing our European cousins (11.7L in France and 12.3L in the UK), the US came under us at 9.3L per person.
Quebec Has Always Been the Party Place
While we never had an extreme prohibition like the US (most places still allowed light beer/wine for some or all the duration of prohibition), we had restrictions enacted that supressed alcohol production and sales. Prohibition started at different times in each province starting in 1901 but all ended by 1927.
The one exception? Quebec. They tried a prohibition for a short time but repealed it quickly because of public pressure. You really can’t tell the French they can’t drink! Anyway, even then Canadians were going to our favourite French-speaking cities to enjoy our vices.
It’s Expensive Here
As a Canadian who often visits the US (we’re close to the border) I know first hand that alcohol prices are a lot higher in the great white north. We also usually have less selection than our American counterparts, although there are often more European imports readily available than you get in your average US liquor store. At least in my experience.
Either way, if you plan to drink in Canada expect it to hit your budget hard – even after the exchange rate is taken into account.
Drinking in Canada? Learn 10 Words You Probably Should Know
- Two-four: A 24 pack of beer
- Caesar: An alcoholic drink that includes vodka, Clamato juice, Worcestershire sauce invented in Calgary, AB
- Timmies: Tim Hortons, AKA where you should go for a hangover breakfast
- Mickey: 375ml bottle of alcohol, called a “flask” size in other places
- Donair: Turkish dish that was invented in Halifax, similar but not the same as a gyro, but definitely something you want at midnight while drinking
- Hooped: Essentially the same as screwed, as in “if the cops catch you drinking underage you’ll be hooped”
- Freezie: An ice pop/freeze pop/Otter Pop to the rest of the world – and yes, you can buy them filled with alcohol
- Texas mickey: 3L of alcohol, AKA the “oversized American” version of a micky
- Dart: Cigarette
- Give’r: Put the effort in or go for it
And there you have it, a guide to drinking in Canada including provincial liquor laws!