Officials are preparing proposals which could see the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol, MLAs learned, on November 15 2011.
Social development minister Nelson McCausland told the assembly a consultation on the matter had been completed in June and an options paper was being prepared.
Any resulting legislation would be brought forward by the health department, he added.
The minister said the emphasis had moved away from pubs to off-licences and the big supermarkets.
He said he had met representatives of the pub trade and that some of the proposed changes could be of benefit to them.
The UUP's Michael Copeland raised the question of "cocktail jugs" containing unidentified spirits sold in restaurants.
Mr McCausland said irresponsibility was another problem.
The minister also outlined some of the initiatives taken to tackle fuel poverty, including the Warm Homes scheme and the pilot boiler replacement scheme.
He told members the problem could be helped by the introduction of pay-as-you-go oil tanks
Mr McCausland also referred to the annual benefit uptake campaign for winter fuel and cold weather payments.
Culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin paid tribute to the role of volunteers in sport.
Replying to a question from the UUP's Robin Swann, the minister said she would encourage Sport NI to take pressure off the clubs so that volunteers could spend less time fundraising and more time coaching.
Asked about violence at a recent Gaelic football match in Ballygawley, the minister said any violence was "totally unacceptable".
"It is not the behaviour befitting of Gaels," she added.