Be it a super-strict 100-mile diet or one with a relatively generous 250-mile guideline, locavorism has always had one serious limitation – booze.
It's hard on oenophiles and craft beer lovers, sure. But, as unimaginable as life might be without Italian wine and Belgian beer, just consider the plight of the cocktail and spirits aficionado: An Old Fashioned made with moonshine leaves a lot to be desired.
Of late, though, new craft distilleries offering gin, whisky and fruit liqueurs sourced from local raw ingredients are making the eco-conscious cocktail snob's life a lot easier. Better yet, depending on where you live, new regulations are making it possible to pick up cocktail fixings along with the last of the season's tomato harvest at, of all places, the farmers' market.
Nova Scotia was well ahead of the curve on this trend. Not only does it have the country's oldest farmers' market (Halifax Seaport, established in 1750), but it also started loosening up its local liquor laws to allow markets to sell cider and wine back in 2001. Beer and craft spirits were included in the fun four years later and today's Halifax Market has 10 vendors offering wine, beer and spirits alongside local produce.
"A big part of the vision for our market is that you'd be able to come here and purchase everything you need for the meal in one place from a local source," says Julie Chaisson, executive director of the market. "It just makes sense that you would be able to buy the alcohol you want to have with it, too." The concept is a boon for those who find the travel time to a region like Niagara or the Okanagan Valley prohibitive, but wish to seek out booze-focused brands not carried by mainstream retailers.
And, for those unsure as to which Appalachian wine to pair with their fresh Atlantic lobster, sampling is allowed. Shoppers can even purchase small glasses of wine to savour as they shop. Cocktails aren't on offer, unfortunately, but small samples of craft beer, hard apple cider, single malt whisky from Cape Breton's Glenora distillery, Steinhart vodka and all manner of spirits from Ironworks, including the distillery's exceptionally popular cranberry liqueur (made from local cranberries, of course), are there for the asking.
Although Nova Scotia was an early leader in modernization, most provinces now allow some form of alcohol at farmers' markets. In Ontario, for example, a pilot project allowing VQA wines in farmers' markets was launched last year. In Quebec, some of the province's best local cideries are represented at select markets, along with artisanal maple liqueurs like Domaine Acer's Val Ambre. And Saskatchewan's Regina Farmers' Market, Prince Edward Island's Charlottetown Market and various markets in British Columbia are delving into the hard stuff. Think Last Mountain Distillery's whisky and vodka in Saskatchewan and bélueberry fruit spirit and maple liqueur from Deep Roots Distillery in P.E.I.
Although not every B.C. city allows booze at farmers' markets, Vancouver does – a lucky break for Miriam Karp, general manager of Odd Society Spirits, a distillery in East Van that does a brisk business with locavores. All of Odd Society's raw grains and berries (they make a very popular crème de cassis from blackcurrants) are procured from local farmers, something they never tire of explaining to 100-mile dieters at the market.
"People are really truly interested and supportive," explains Karp, "We're starting to get regulars who want us to be there. It's almost an ideal venue for us, since it's frequented by people who want to know where their products are made, how they're made and where the raw ingredients come from."
In some cases, that happens to be from the table right next door. Karp met a winemaker at one farmers' market and he now supplies the base product for Odd Society's vermouth. Karp also collaborates with Mixers and Elixirs, a farm-to-table cocktail ingredient company that she met … at the market, of course.
One-stop locavore liquor shopping. Once just a boozy dream, soon to be a reality at a market near you. Depending on where you live, of course.