My Fellow Inebriates,
Surrounded by Gentiles in Langley, Canada, I almost forgot that today is the start of Hanukkah.
My Jewish uncle (who wraps the best-looking Christmas packages in the whole family) emphasizes that Hanukkah is a small occurrence on the Jewish calendar—not a “me too” answer to Christmas but a celebration in its own right. Uncle B is a good sport about Christmas even though he cultivates a broad misanthropy that blankets all faiths and he would happily downplay both Christmas and Hanukkah if his Catholic-raised wife (my mum’s sister) would permit it.
Another thing I haven’t mentioned—Uncle B doesn’t talk to bears. Despite our obvious animation and partial intelligence, he doesn’t see the bears at LBHQ. He’s like that kid who sees dead people, except the dead people are bears, and he doesn’t see them. So he’s actually not like that kid who sees dead people. But Uncle B has more brain cells than I do, so maybe he’s right, and Scary and I aren’t really here.
“You bears are actually not real.”
Which is to say, Uncle B doesn’t care what my Hanukkah plans are (harassing Hanukkah Harry for eight gifts). Nor is Uncle B going to show up with eight gifts.
I was thinking this when Christine arrived last night with her famous canvas bag. Eight days’ worth of gifts sounds great, but they are very small gifts—arguably the sort that make you crave larger gifts. (A teeny bottle of Patron, for example, would just foster rabid desire for a large one, but perhaps HH should bring it anyway as an experiment.)
Eight days of moderate satisfaction. Eight days of relative restraint.
So when Christine rang the doorbell I decided to throw my lot in with her rather than Hanukkah Harry, who actually forgot to visit us altogether last year. What could be in her canvas bag?
She’d brought stuff, and we had stuff waiting. While the kids gobbled pizza, we sampled eight things, unconsciously shooting the eight-present wad before we even remembered it was Hanukkah Eve.
Cannery Squire Scotch Ale
Hazy dark copper with a soap-sud head, this ale gives off a woody, malty, butterscotchy aroma with perceptible peat. It could be chewier on the palate, but it delivers a mellow sweetness that goes down easily. Pretty ordinary, though. I’d get it again, but only if it were cheaper.
Capitão Rayeo Reserva (2009)
A blend of Syrah, Trincadeira, and Aragonez, this Portuguese red wine is aged six months in French oak barrels and weighs in at 14% alcohol. It would benefit from decanting, which we didn’t bother doing, only to find that it had developed into a gem by the time our glasses were finished. A cheap gem too—at $14 bucks, it serves up rich fruit, supple tannins, and some unexpected depth.
Ola Dubh 16
The product of a collaboration between Harviestoun Brewery and Highland Park Distillery, this dark “black oil” boasts 8% ABV and exudes oak, smoke, peat, and molasses. On the tongue it’s surprisingly moderate in weight, Scotch-like characteristics becoming more pronounced and diverse. Roasty-toasty with vanilla, chocolate, and coffee, the overall sensation is velvety and marvelous with a nice boozy burn.
Innis & Gunn Rum Finish
Beer with a rum-cask finish? OMG! Why aren’t more brewers doing this? The malty, enveloping INNIS & GUNN—but pirate-style. Rich mahogany bronze with gorgeous clarity, this 7.4% elixir fills the mouth with toffee, smoke, candied fruit, vanilla, and the promised rum essence. Every taste bud is rewarded with a symphony of masterfully harmonized flavors. What a treat. We knew whatever we had after this would suffer by comparison, so we switched gears…
We’d been thinking our homemade hooch was barely a success, but it surprised us by being pleasant and drinkable. While all of us agreed it wasn’t exactly Bailey’s, it wasn’t nasty either.
Canadian Cream II
Unbeknownst to me, my mother made a second batch of Wiser’s whisky–based cream liqueur, this time tasting and tweaking as she went, loosely following a much simpler recipe reliant on fewer canned items and therefore ending up fresher-tasting and more successful. Still not a match with Bailey’s, but totally yummy. But why the hell didn’t my mum invite me to help???
If we can drink rum-flavored beer, we can eat whisky-flavored balls. I promised I wouldn’t describe Christine as “eating my balls,” but we all agreed my balls could use more booze. Even a spray-misting with more whisky would have helped them. But then again, perhaps Wiser’s just doesn’t have enough character to carry a whisky ball.
Highland Park 12
Cue angel song! Cue God-rays! Ahhhhhhh, this was what Christine’s canvas bag contained. Silky and palate-coating with a teasing honey sweetness, HIGHLAND PARK 12 lulls you with malt, then surprises with delicate smoke and vanilla, barely perceptible peat, and an endless finish. Christine, Christine, Christine…sigh.
You see, I passed out after our wee dram and didn’t wake up until the next morning. Christine had had coffee and left, sensibly opting out of the family’s planned “breakfast with Santa.” I awoke alone, with a furry tongue (like every day). And I was sad. I would have liked to hug her good-bye.
So there you have it: eight days of gifts, all in one day—the day before Hanukkah. We did the opposite of what scientists advise for optimal emotional and intellectual development: hastened gratification rather than delayed it. If you’re familiar with the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, you’ll know that, of preschool children offered a marshmallow along with two options (eat it immediately or wait 15 minutes and get two marshmallows), those who chose the second option grew up to have higher SAT scores, more self-assurance, higher social competence, and better reasoning abilities.
By taking our eight gifts before Hanukkah, we didn’t take option 2. We didn’t even take option 1. We took option 0, which probably explains a certain brain-cell shortage in yours truly 😉
Happy Hanukkah, my fellow inebriates.