My Fellow Inebriates,

Our Canadian Cream is almost ready for consumption. Not that we haven’t had a small sip already, but at the end of this week it should be as good as it’s going to get—i.e., ready to chug. I have a few nagging worries, though.

Canadian Cream Label copyWhen we made the liqueur, we bought a one-litre carton of whipping cream. Two and a half cups went into the mix, my mum put half a cup or so in some solid-food risotto-like thing, and the rest sat in the fridge with nothing to do. Recycling day came along and, since the unused cream was two days away from expiry, we gave it a sniff. OMG! Holy shit, people! That cream smelled rank. Holy crap, two days early the stuff was horrid. Mum poured it down the drain and rinsed the carton…but it was hard not to look at our giant Canadian Cream jug and think…the same cream’s in there! OMG!

That’s really the reason we got into it early—to make sure it wasn’t off. You wouldn’t want to take a big slug of sour milk products and end up barfing. But it smelled fine. It tasted fine.

Alcohol keeps food from going off.

So what is this amazing preservative power of alcohol all about? How does it work?

Simply put, alcohol is poisonous. At concentrations above 15 percent, bacteria and fungi can’t survive. That having been said, cream-liqueur experts advise against keeping homemade concoctions more than a few weeks, and only then in the fridge. Roger that—we’d better finish this shit now. Review…on the way 😉

To this sage advice, my mum said, “Oh. I guess we’d better not make another batch then. It’ll be enough to get through this lot.”

This is exactly the opposite of what I meant. Of course we should make another batch. Right now.

But instead she said we were going to make whisky balls.

rum balls

I was immediately suspicious. Another recipe requiring us to cook with booze? OMG! The angels’ share is supposed to be miniscule—the tiny portion that evaporates naturally, not liberal gases spewing into the air from a hot saucepan. Damn it, why do the angels get any of our booze? Aren’t they supposed to be perfect creatures? Not addicts jonesing in distillery cask rooms.

“Relax,” said my mother. “Behave yourself.”

Apparently you don’t cook whisky balls.

They’re just like rum balls, which you don’t cook either—only they’re made by people who are too ungenerous to buy rum for loveable bears who have repeatedly requested it. Whisky balls are a not-horrible-sounding variation on rum balls. Let’s do this shit.

Here’s what we need:
  • 3 ¼ cups vanilla wafer crumbs
  • ¾ cup icing sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 1 ½ cup walnuts 
  • 3 tbsp light corn syrup
  • ½ cup whisky

Life is a compromise at LBHQ, so we’re using graham crumbs. We have to do this without Miss V seeing, or she will demand a bowlful of them (not that she would deign to eat a graham cracker).

Next two ingredients: check.

Walnuts…the kids will bitch a very great deal if walnuts go into this recipe. But perhaps they shouldn’t be the arbiters of our whisky-ball ingredients.

Corn syrup is one of those things that doesn’t age, and ours is probably older than I am. We’re going to use it anyway.

As for throwing half a cup of Canadian whisky into this recipe…what the hell. The plastic Wiser’s jug is enormous and its somewhat atonal siren song has been relentless lately—better do something with it other than just pound it. Sigh.

rum ball mixingOkay, so you really just mix all this stuff up and shape it into balls. (OMG, I’m not even allowed to help with that—what’s the big deal, a little fur?) Then you sequester your balls away for a few days in an airtight container so the flavor can mellow. Five days is about ideal. But it’s hard to be away from your balls for five days. You might find yourself opening the container and sniffing your balls every so often, wondering if they’re ripe.

Whisky or whiskey balls?

If your balls are Scottish, Canadian, or Japanese, they’re whisky balls.

If your balls are American or Irish, they’re whiskey balls. As a rule of thumb, if your country has an “e” in the spelling, so does your whisk(e)y and any balls made therefrom.

ASTROLIQUOR for July 12-18—What the stars say you should drink!

My Fellow Inebriates,

Here’s your booze horoscope:

Expect bad news concerning a friend’s health, Aries. This person used to be active but is flat on his/her ass right now. It’s serious, so you should visit soon. You never know how fast these Kubler-Ross stages can go, but try to arrive during “denial” and before “anger.” Hollow out a pineapple and sneak it into your friend’s hospital room along with white rum, spiced rum, amaretto, and pineapple juice. Be a good friend and speak frankly, and if you feel too sad, go ahead and get drunk.

Taurus, do you have a good friend you’ve been ignoring? Don’t get written off as a douchebag—at least write an email explaining how your brain’s been too saturated with Everclear and Bacardi 151 for you to leave the house. But don’t divulge too much—your friend doesn’t need to know about the three-week old vomit patch in the hallway or the reason your cat runs away from you. Just be friendly and vague.

You’re running on empty, Gemini, so kick back with some white rum and lime. Ignore requests to start new projects, update files, or come into work. Filling your head with rum will give you newfound clarity and leave you open to new experiences. Even reeling around the produce aisle could lead you to a new friend or two. It all starts with the rum.

Mind your spending habits, Cancer, or your finances will be good and f#cked. Write down your expenses to gain some insight into your patterns. This will actually blow your mind, as most of the time you have no idea where the money goes. Just think: with a little financial constraint you’ll be able to afford better tequila, and boy will your tummy ever thank you. Not only that—you’ll attract flirtatious interest from some tire-biting neighbor who thinks you must be rich because you have a nice car. Ha!

Leo, this week features strong, troubling feelings that threaten to get the better of you. But you don’t want to bother friends with these feelings. Suppress them with an awesome Molson/Malibu combo. Not only will you triumph over your emotions; you’ll remember nothing, and if you consume enough, your babbling will be too incoherent to reveal any facts. What do you mean you’ve never combined beer and Malibu? Why wouldn’t you? Two parts to one and you’re gold.

Virgos tend to write a lot of complaint letters without expecting a response. This week someone will write back to you—oh joy! But the more carefully you read the response, the more you realize you’ve been given the bum’s rush. Just be glad you got a reply, Virgo. Your original letter was almost unreadable and soaked in spilt tequila. What were you asking for anyway? Oh yeah, more tequila. And triple sec. But why were you asking your pastor?

Libra, you realize this week that it’s time to get a job. Most of your friends have them, so why not? But you don’t feel ready to actually apply for anything. Quite right. You may wish to stop drinking Zombies for a few days so the words on the wanted ads will stop moving and let you read them. But really, who applies for a job in summer?

This is a happy week for you, Scorpio. The last few weeks you’ve spent event-planning have led to satisfaction and serenity—and this calls for a drink:

  • 3 oz Bacardi 151
  • 1 oz creme de cacao
  • 1 oz cream

Shake everything and pour over ice. Ahhhhh! A structured life can be rewarding.

Sagittarius, you’re getting the urge to break the rules. You find any sort of constraint intolerable this week—even traffic rules. Solution? Park your car and ditch work. Make yourself a weird concoction for breakfast. How about blackberry liqueur with amaretto? Alternatively you could stay sober and have an energetic bike ride or an early-morning yoga class. LOL.

Harmony surrounds you this week, Capricorn. Sure, there are workaday stresses and demands, but these make you feel effective and productive. Meanwhile, friendships are ticking along nicely. Basically everything’s great, but you know how Capricorns are. Things can’t be this good, can they?! Better start examining, overanalyzing, sabotaging. Naturally, alcohol can help. I see you starting in a celebratory mode with champagne and taking it downward from there.

Aquarius, start passing out your business cards; this is a great week to meet new people—especially a Leo. Most of the people you already know are afraid of you because of that apple vodka tantrum from a while back. Only new people from outside your usual circles will be unaware of these types of behaviors. How long can you hang onto your new Leo friend without painting him/her with schnapps-scented barf?

Pisces, take the time to make someone happy this week. Don’t worry; you don’t need to spend money—just post some cat pictures on his/her Facebook page or send a friendly text. Don’t telephone, though! It’s pretty hard to talk coherently with a full bottle of bourbon down the hatch. Either that, or make the call before you crack the bourbon. But 6:00am is pretty early.

SHOOFLY SHIRAZ (2010)—Call that koala off!

My Fellow Inebriates,

Today the whole family’s out looking at our new headquarters, so naturally I’m wondering what I can get up to.

But without thumbs it’s hard to get up to much.

My fur hurts.

And then there’s this raging, fur-blasting headache. Did my parents offer me a painkiller for it before they left? Noooo. They helped themselves to 400mg ibuprofen each, then stowed the bearproof container on an upper shelf.

So why do we all (minus the kiddies) have this thwacking great headache? Reluctant as I am to blame SHOOFLY SHIRAZ (2010), the evidence is pretty solid. Two glasses of red wine shouldn’t do such a number on the old brain pan.

Red wine, along with Scotch, bourbon and anything dark, is famous for causing headaches. But the evidence tends to be anecdotal and fraught with variables. How many drinks? At what level of hydration? With or without carbonation? Consumed exclusively or mixed with different alcohol types?

It’s red wine that gets the worst rap. Why do some wines inflict more next-day head pain that others?

Nobody really knows.

According to Winegeeks, from which I swiped much of my information, the cause of red-wine headaches hasn’t been precisely determined. But here are some suspects:

  • Sulfites—natural byproducts of yeast added to ensure clean fermentation. But white wine typically contains more sulfites than red.
  • Histamines—plant and animal substances that spur allergic reactions. While they are more common in red wine than white, the data are inconclusive. For one thing, histamine occurrences are very low. For another, a study from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed no difference between the side effects suffered by drinkers of low- and high-histamine wines.
  • Tannins—substances that give plants a bitter taste and produce that saliva-drying sensation you get from dry wine, tea, coffee, and nuts. They have healthful antioxidants but (one theory goes) may bind to starches, preventing their uptake and use in the brain’s manufacture of serotonin. Serotonin deficiency, in turn, causes vasoconstriction, which leads to migraines.
  • Congeners—chemicals produced during fermentation that contribute to the flavor of non-distilled drinks. These include acetone, acetaldehyde, esters, glycols (the list goes on), none of which sound too brain-friendly, although one congener in particular, fusel oil, contributes to red wine’s complexity. Dark drinks are generally more congener-rich than clear drinks. In a bourbon-vs-vodka study, subjects who drank bourbon suffered disturbed sleep and diminished performance compared to subjects who consumed vodka.

It’s all you. Or is it?

Individual susceptibility is also a factor. We all know people who avoid red wine because of headaches; likewise, plenty of people/bears enjoy a glass or three without ill effect. Our little tasting crew falls into this latter category, so when we find ourselves reeling around gripping our heads the morning after splitting one 750mL bottle of SHOOFLY between us, something’s up with that wine.

What about that SHOOFLY?

The 2010 vintage may be a little young. Even after we let it breathe a good 45 minutes, it exuded fresh yeast along with a rush of ripe berries and black fruit. Vinified from super-ripe grapes harvested from old vines around Adelaide, SHOOFLY is fruit-lush yet parchingly tannic—not massive but large and reasonably well structured. The finish is perhaps a little clipped.

Like many an Aussie Shiraz it packs a 14.5% wallop. It’s less a symphony than a kick-ass rock concert. Damn, I liked it last night. It even made my parents’ conversation about moving and finance a bit less boring.

Still, SHOOFLY isn’t tame. Maybe a year in the bottle would help it—but will the headache genie still come out with it? It’s a wild animal all right. I woke up with it clawing my melon from the inside like some scrofulous koala yammering sweet nothings at my two brain cells. I barely got through today.

What’s important, though, is that SHOOFLY is yummy booze for $18. And if someone will just open the Advil bottle for me, I’ll forgive it anything. Hell, if we had a second bottle I’d drink it right now. But I’d need help opening it.