March 22, 2023

How realistic are Canada’s new alcohol guidelines, which recommend no more than two drinks a week? We partnered with the Angus Reid Group to find out what Torontonians consume, our favourite ways to imbibe, who’s going dry, and other surprising habits of a tipsy city

Illustrations by
LeeAndra Cianci


Earlier this year,

when Canada announced its new alcohol guidelines, the news went down like a flat, warm lager. Gone were the generous limits of yore—which, since 2011, suggested weekly maximums of 15 drinks for men and 10 for women. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction spent two and a half years crafting the new guidelines, and the resulting message was a serious buzzkill: no amount of alcohol is good for you. If you must drink, keep it to two per week. Any more than that heightens the risk of cancer. At seven weekly drinks, you have to start worrying about strokes and heart disease too. 


One CCSA researcher said the guidelines are about reduction, not prohibition. But detractors called them too strict and anxiety-inducing. Dan Malleck, a professor of health sciences at Brock University and one of the study’s most vocal critics, chided researchers for ignoring the pleasure, stress relief and collegiality associated with alcohol. What about the social benefits of enjoying wine over dinner with your friends? Or the good times that come with a cut-loose, boozy night on the town? Are the new no-fun guidelines totally out of sync with reality?


To find out, we teamed up with the Angus Reid Group to ask Torontonians how much they imbibe, why they do it and whether they have any plans to cut back. The results are illuminating. They reveal the city’s favourite libations (wine, beer and caesars), surefire hangover cures (water ranks high, hair of the dog surprisingly low) and go-to places to get sloshed (home, mostly). Plus, we compare the drinking habits of men vs. women, young vs. old and downtowners vs. suburbanites. If, like us, you want to know where you fall on the consumption continuum, grab a drink (cocktail, mocktail or other), get comfy and read on.


From February 2 to 7, 2023, the Angus Reid Group conducted an online survey among a representative sample of 1,005 alcohol consumers in the GTA, ages 19+, balanced and weighted on age and gender. All respondents were members of the online Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage pointsat a 95% confidence level.

How many times a week we drink

Daily drinkers are more likely to be men


of us drink daily

The most popular drinking days

75% of us like to get tipsy on Saturdays


of us dip into a bottle every day

4% of us have a drink to help deal with Mondays


of men enjoy drinking alone vs.


of women


of those aged 19–34 worry about missing out on social experiences if they don’t drink

number of drinks we consume in a week

Torontonians put back an average of five drinks a week


of those aged 19–34 stick to one drink a week vs.


of those 55 and older

21% of men consume 10+ drinks each week vs. 8% of women

24% of women have only one drink each week vs. 18% of men

Torontonians spend an average of $28 a week on booze

The Geographical Divide

No matter which area code we call home, GTAers all have roughly the same drinking habits and preferences—with a few notable exceptions

where we like to drink

79% of us enjoy drinking in the comfort of home

1. At home

2. At a friend or family member’s home

3. At a restaurant

4. At a party

5. At a bar

6. At a club

7.  In the park

5% of us like to sneak a drink in the park

How comfortable we are with work-related boozing


of us are okay with drinking while we’re at work itself

What’s our poison?


1st choice: BEER

2nd choice: WINE

3rd choice: LIQUOR


1st choice: WINE


3rd choice: SPARKLING WINE

Young drinkers are far more likely to say yes to cider and sparkling wine

57% of young drinkers will order a cocktail vs. only 16% of older drinkers

27% of drinkers under 35 like getting smashed on coolers vs. just 9% of those 55 and older

our go-to cocktails, from most-enjoyed to most-meh

57% of those aged 19–34 love margaritas

22% of men say they don’t drink cocktails

The older you are, the less likely you are to reach for a cocktail with the exception of a good caesar

My cringiest drunk memory is...

“I got black-out drunk in a bar and then didn’t get to meet Michael Cera.”

“I drank so much that I threw up in the bathroom sink of a friend’s house and clogged the drain.”

“I got arrested in college for public urination. They called my parents.” 

“I called my old girlfriend. She was already married.”

“I stole a large piece of forestry equipment and then clear-cut a bunch of trees in the dark.”

“I got kicked out of an Irish bar for head-butting a giant novelty pitcher into the lap of the person sitting across from me because the band was playing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ ”

“I broke my toe and then lost my car in a parking lot.” 

“I drank warm vodka on an empty stomach, then fell asleep in a 24-hour classroom on campus. My friends and I went to get food around 6 a.m. I went home and barfed chicken nuggets in the shower.”

Wealthy men are the biggest spenders. Those who earn more than $100,000 a year are more likely to drop $100 a week on alcohol.

Buzz City

Where can a person get a drink around here? As it turns out, temptation is everywhere. The city has thousands upon thousands of bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries licensed to sell booze. Here’s just how many, by neighbourhood and type

21% of us completed the dry January challenge in 2023


of those ages 19-34 find it easier to meet people when drinking vs.


of those 55 and older

How we feel about the amount we drink

People UNDER 55 are more likely to want to go dry

our tried-and-true hangover remedies

One-quarter of drinkers claim they’ve never been hungover

PEOPLE ALSO SWORE BY: pickle juice, chocolate milk, tomato juice, Gatorade, sex, weed, hot showers and Wim Hof breathing exercises


of those aged 19–34 tend to smoke more cigarettes when drinking socially 

A Q&A with the researcher who thinks Canadians should stick to two drinks per week

My best drunk memory is...

“When the Blue Jays won the World series in 1992. It was the same day I turned 30”

“I met my current partner at a bar. I was completely wasted and gave her a card that said she was beautiful. We’ve been together for five years.”

“Lots of beer and some skinny dipping at Sauble Beach.”

“Stealing a Christmas tree.”

“I met the love of my life in a bar. We got plastered and woke up together. We enjoy each other’s company just as much sober.” 

“Being on the sound stage at Lollapalooza ’92.”

“I drank whiskey slushies at my 60th birthday party with 100 friends and family members. Then I tried to communicate my home address to the taxi driver. Fun times.”

Why we grab a drink (or two)


of us drink to relax or unwind

71% drink casually with friends and family

51% drink for fun

33% drink only on special occasions, like weddings and birthday parties

26% drink to be more sociable

14% drink when we’re stressed out

7% drink twhen we’re sad or depressed

4% drink because of peer pressure

Younger adults are more likely to rely on booze in social settings


of us have heard about the new guidelines 


of us plan to consume less alcohol because of them

Spirited Away

Our top five zero-ABV bottles right now

By Kate Dingwall

Pseudo suds

Bellwoods now makes a non-alcoholic version of Jelly King, their classic dry-hopped sour with a cult following. It’s just as juicy, tart and tangy as the original, but more enticing if, say, you have an early morning spin class or a business lunch lined up the next day. Other lo-fi cold ones from the brewery: an alcohol-free IPA and a sparkling water that mimics the flavour of a mojito. $4.42 for one 473-mL can.

On-the-wagon wine

Ontario-based Proxies creates non-alcoholic wines meant to be sipped and savoured like the real stuff. The makers are always tinkering with seasonal ingredients, but one of their mainstays—and our current favourite—is Red Ember. It’s a deep, moody red made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, blackberry vinegar, a hibiscus tea blend, pomegranate juice, sea salt and red wine concentrate. Break out the good stemware for this one. $180 for six 750-mL bottles.

Hoppy water

This isn’t merely a jazzed-up seltzer: it’s Cascade, a sparkling hop water from Guelph’s Wellington Brewery. It gets its name from the addition of Cascade hops (found in many West Coast IPAs brewed in the past decade), and its citrusy grapefruit notes make it taste like an extremely crushable adult beverage. $12.40 for six 355-mL cans.

Souped up bubbles

Not drinking often means cracking a super-sugary Coke at a cocktail bar. Toronto-born, women-founded Barbet elevates sipping on non-buzzy bubbles into a more grown-up experience, with disco-hued (but all-natural) drinks in flavours like grapefruit-ginger-juniper and blood orange–­calamansi-jalapeno. Each makes for a low-effort mix if you do drink or a complex and celebratory sip if you don’t. $36 for a dozen 355-mL cans.

An alcohol-free aperitivo

Free Spirits’ iteration of an Italian aperitivo can help make a spirit-free sbagliato or a no-booze negroni. The bittersweet and vibrant red Campari-ish concoction is surprisingly complex, with rich notes of rhubarb and orange peel. Sip it in a spritz, make it the base of a mocktail or drink it on the rocks with a twist. $45 for a 750-mL bottle.

A lot of us are trying to get sober(ish)

43% of us set a specific limit when we drink

Who’s tried non-alcoholic drinks

The older you are, the less likely you are to have tried non-alcoholic substitutes

the booze-free beverages we’re drinking

Weed-infused drinks are more popular with the younger crowd—only 5% of seniors have tried them


of those aged 19-34 have tried mocktails vs.


of those 55 and older

18% of us think that drinking is less cool than it used to be

This story appears in the April 2023 issue of Toronto Life magazineTo subscribe for just $39.99 a year, click here. To purchase single issues, click here

1 Founded in 1959, Second City popularized the art of long-form comedic improvisation, which thrives on a two-word ethos: “Yes, and…” Performers were encouraged to follow the lead of their fellow players, embracing the chaos as they wrote live comedy in real-time.