What fruit flies can tell us about liquor

My fellow inebriates,

Today we have some very special guest reviewers.

I’m talking about fruit flies!

We actually thought they had given LBHQ a pass this year. Usually they arrive sometime around blackberry season, in August. This year they were strangely absent, though. Why, I wondered? Had June’s heat dome flamed them and all their eggs out of existence? Had we neglected to buy their favourite fruits? Or were they not double-vaxxed yet?

Whatever their reasoning, we weren’t sad about their absence. Fruit flies can be pests around alcohol. (And I’m an expert on being a pest around alcohol.) Just when you think there’s not a single one in sight, as soon as you pour a drink, they appear. Even if you have a bunch of neglected bananas on the counter or a full compost bin, those little fuckers will immediately zip toward your glass and prepare to land.

Sometimes it’s just one fruit fly that appears. You’ll swear and clap your paws around it, only to find it’s vanished. As soon as you relax, it will materialize again.

When that one fruit fly finally does meet its demise—either because you clouted it about the antennae or because it did a swan dive into your beer—it will immediately be succeeded by another, equally persistent fruit fly.

August, September and most of October passed without this phenomenon. And then suddenly they were here.

Instead of trying to eradicate them, I decided to get their opinions on some liquor.


Redbreast 12-year-old Still Pot Irish Whiskey

LB’s review: Redbreast is elegant and impeccably balanced. Richly aromatic, it wafts toffee, vanilla bean, soft tannins and hints of dried fruits and perhaps some hazelnut to balance out the sweetness. The mouthfeel is large and mouth-saturating and the finish is lingering. It leaves you wanting more. This whiskey more than delivers on its very reasonable price point.

Fruit flies’ review: They were willing to die for this. One immediately plummeted to its death on a large ice cube.


Crown Royal Canadian Whisky

LB’s review: Crown Royal was created to commemorate the 1939 grand tour of the British Royals to Canada. It is made from over 50 different whiskies! Crown Royal features light vanilla and toffee top notes along with undercurrents of baking spice, oak and a tiny hint of orange peel. The mouthfeel is substantial and satisfying and the finish is long. At around $27 for 750 mL, you can feel good about drinking it copiously by itself or making cocktails with it.

Fruit flies’ review: They were quite desperate to have it. Clearly the Redbreast-inspired suicide of their compatriot had taught them nothing. Or perhaps fruit flies are just nihilistic hedonists.


Swear Jar Canadian Whisky

LB’s review: I’ll be honest—we bought this for the container. Even though, at 750 mL, it is nowhere near capacious enough to be the family’s actual swear jar, it represents some pretty cool packaging. But as far as flavour goes, Swear Jar is odd. Aromatically, this three-year-old Quebecois offering leads with nuts. Which nut, I wasn’t sure for the longest time. Maybe almonds? Maybe hazelnuts? Or some sort of big nut mash-up. Singing and dancing behind this top note are peppery spice, cloves, some fruit and—yes—some kind of solvent. After nursing a glass each of Swear Jar, my parents decided to drink it no more and, instead, to push it at visitors as a cocktail ingredient. Not that we’ve had many visitors lately, so Swear Jar remains in the cupboard. But my parents poured some into a bowl for our fruit fly experiment this weekend, and I enjoyed it very much.

Fruit flies’ review: They acted as if it didn’t exist. Something in Swear Jar is a fruit fly deterrent.


Laphroaig Scottish Whisky

LB’s review: If you’re a fan of Islay whiskies, you may already know that Laphroaig 10-year-old represents incredible value. It is redolent with smoke, vanilla and peat, with an interesting brininess and medicinal aftertaste. The mouthfeel is full-bodied and warming without singeing your fur. The finish is lingering. As my dad commented, it gives Lagavulin a run for its money.

Fruit flies’ review: They LOVED this whisky. They agreed with my dad that it was just as good as Lagavulin, and one of them died for it. It didn’t get its chosen death, mind you—my dad got out the vacuum cleaner and hosed it into oblivion. After that we waited for more fruit flies to appear, but they must have been having second thoughts. That or the raunchy bananas on the counter started looking a bit less risky.

Liquorstore Bear enjoying a bowl of Swear Jar Canadian whisky - with no fruit flies competing for it.

The frosty summer recipe you can’t live without

My fellow inebriates,

Sometime ago I tweeted to Wendy’s, urging them to bring back the vanilla frosty. They had eliminated it for no obvious reason, although I suspected COVID-19 had reduced demand, rendering two oozing machines excessive.

You may think alcoholic bears don’t like ice cream (or ice cream facsimiles). But as I explained to Wendy’s in my tweet, I like to put Crown Royal in a vanilla frosty. And it just has to be vanilla, because chocolate is distracting.

Well, today I learned that Wendy’s was listening! My fellow inebriates, it was so gratifying to know that they took my tweet to heart. They brought back the vanilla frosty, and now I feel heard, seen, and valued.

So, my fellow inebriates, now you can do it too! Here’s how:

  • You need a mickey or a flask of Crown Royal. Most Wendy’s restaurants will not let you open-carry your booze, so be discreet.
  • Order a frosty! They’re 99 cents right now.
  • Scoop out some of the ice cream (or facsimile). Give it to a small child—or even a nasty teenager if that’s who accompanied you to Wendy’s.
  • Now that you’ve made space, pour your Crown Royal in. Stir it up! I like a 2:1 Crown-to-frosty ratio, but you may prefer just a taste… say, 1–2 tbsp (what I call a breakfast frosty).
  • Drink the rest of your mickey or flask.
  • If the teenager is 16+, let them drive home.        

What do YOU like to put in your frosty? If you’ve tried something besides Crown Royal (tequila? rum?) tell me all about it! Drop me a line.

The balls you want in your CROWN ROYAL RESERVE

Whaaat, my fellow inebriates? You say you don’t want balls in your Canadian whisky?

Well, you might want balls in your Canadian whisky if they were THESE balls.


That’s right, my fellow inebriates! Giant balls of ice!

My dad brought home these spherical ice moulds for my mum’s birthday a while back. At first she was very ungrateful, not having ever expressed a wish for such things, but after experiencing them in a rock glass of CROWN ROYAL RESERVE Canadian rye whisky, she repented of her birthday brattiness and agreed that Dad had found a good thing.

20170118_2008191Now, whether you should add ice to your whisky in the first place is its own controversy. If your whisk(e)y is cask-strength OR cheap and nasty, you need no excuse. But what about a reasonably nice rye whisky like CROWN ROYAL RESERVE? Purists might urge you to drink it neat—all the better to fully experience it. And adding water (not ice) can actually help release flavours in a good whisk(e)y that might not otherwise come out, by breaking the surface tension of the drink and creating a reaction that releases aromas. But ice? That’s where purist and drinkers like my mum diverge.

Adding ice to whisk(e)y isn’t unforgivable, but it does limit the “nose.” If you have a very high-quality beverage, purists will urge you very strongly to forgo the ice. But if you, like the dwellers of LBHQ, are on a soul-destroying budget, well, you’re gonna want to add ice your wretched but affordable swill.

crown-royal-reserveSo how did a thing like CROWN ROYAL RESERVE enter our house? Not for donkey’s years has my mother purchased a rye that didn’t come in a plastic bottle.

It was my Uncle J (who doesn’t know I call him that) who brought this delightful premium version of CROWN ROYAL to LBHQ. In kneejerk fashion, we got out the ice (and the Coca Cola in Uncle J’s case) and went to town on the bottle. While we can’t report what it tastes like neat, we nonetheless detected CROWN ROYAL RESERVE’s notes of maple and caramel, its smoothness and its balance. What it lacks in complexity it makes up for with its well-behaved sippability. All of us went back for a second belt, and my mum crunched her ice into nothing.

Which is probably why Dad bought her the ice balls. When you have a mouthful of screaming dental work as my dad does, listening to your wife of 13 years crunch the shit out of the ice in her CROWN ROYAL RESERVE must make you want to call a lawyer. Hats off to my dad for taking the high road and buying her ice balls instead, underappreciated though they were initially.

A few warnings about these very large balls:

You have to be smart about how you put them in your drink.

RULE ONE: Ice first. You cannot pour your rye and then chuck one of these balls in. You’ll lose your rye. And yes, Mum tried it.

20170116_1959091RULE TWO: Be careful. These are big honking balls. Even if your rock glass is empty, you mustn’t drop them in or you’ll risk breaking the glass. And yes, Mum tried that too. (Run hot water over the spherical ice mould to loosen the ice ball, take off the ice-mould lid, put the glass upside down over the mould and then flip it right-side-up with the iceball pressed against the bottom of the glass. Voila!

RULE THREE: Knowing that you can’t put your booze in the glass first, if you’re concerned about measuring that booze, you won’t be able to use the iceball-filled glass as a visual measure for your pour-line—at least not until you get used to having big balls in your glass. Grab a jigger so you can measure your booze and then pour it onto the ice.

And if you don’t want to measure, that’s fine too. No car keys, though, my fellow inebriates! Stay home and keep pouring CROWN ROYAL RESERVE over the ice until it melts. Your balls will stay with you all night long.