OMG, my fellow inebriates. I glanced at the gerbil tank (which I rarely do because I’m terrified of the gerbils’ ability to chew and shred). And what did I see?
It was Cocoa the Gerbil, villainously gnawing on the box that used to contain LAGAVULIN 8 YEAR OLD 200TH ANNIVERSARY WHISKY. Where did he get that box??? And where was the bottle?
In a panic I ransacked the kitchen looking for the bottle. Surely it had to be there, with the two inches I remembered of smoky, peaty yet round and buttery not to mention complex whisky. OMG, where was it? Under the sink I went looking for at least an EMPTY bottles from which to inhale the tarry, honey-roasted, briny dregs. But the recycling had gone out days before, apparently with my precious Lagavulin.
This was unforgivable. Not just because my dad and his friend R had finished it, but because Cocoa was now having his way with the box! I’m terrified of Cocoa at the best of times, and here he was lording it over me that my beloved whisky had been drained.
What the hell was I doing while Dad and R inhaled its sublime smoky yet fruit-forward notes, then sampled its gently charry, burnt-sugar flavour with its hints of licorice and seaweed followed by a baking-spice kick? WHAT WAS I DOING?!!
I was avoiding Cocoa, that’s what. My dad has finally found an effective guard for his liquor. As long as that gerbil tank stands between me and the kitchen, all booze is off limits.
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.
Now, 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.
So 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.
RULE 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.
OPEN LETTER TO HERSHEY’S CANADA
Last year I made my very own cream liqueur, combining full cream, cheap Canadian rye whisky, and melted Hershey’s Chipits. The recipe was a grand success, and even if it did languish in our fridge until clumps collected at the bottom of the jug, it was only because my parents/co-chefs could not conceive of the cream staying fresh long enough for us to consume it at a moderate rate rather than binge-drink it before the cream’s “best before” date. (I know, right? How could they not understand that whisky kills EVERYTHING?)
My homemade liqueur’s label may also have played some small part in its relegation to the back of the fridge—you be the judge, as I don’t have a marketing degree; I’m just a small bear with two brain cells. But whether or not anybody deigned to drink it, I considered our Canadian Cream a glorious concoction, worthy of a second act.
In other words: Liquorstore Bear’s Homemade Kahlua Knock-Off.
Now, Hershey’s people, if you’ve ever had this particular hooch, you know it’s coffee-flavoured. So my mission this Christmas was to combine coffee-type ingredients with, well, any kind of hard alcohol.
My first impulse was to use actual espresso, brewed in a stovetop Bialetti. But my mother, who is lazy, instead presented me with a bag of coffee-flavoured Chipits. These, she said, we could melt the same way we’d melted regular Chipits for our Canadian Cream. It would be faster, the melted chips would impart a creamy mouthfeel, and no one would have to bounce off the walls after drinking the leftover espresso.
“Awesome,” I said, and got the vodka ready. This involved beating a plastic mickey against a table until the cap broke off. (I don’t have any thumbs.)
Meanwhile, my mother melted the coffee-flavoured Chipits. (I am not allowed to use the stove because I am irresponsible.)
As your product melted (correctly, in a double boiler), a most offensive odour began to drift through our kitchen. “That,” I said, “does not smell like coffee.” Yet, in a weird way it did. But in an even weirder way, it really did not. I peeked at the ingredient list:
hydrogenated palm kernel oil
natural and artificial flavours
modified milk ingredients
OMG, Hershey’s! Notice anything? Like…pssst! There’s no coffee in these coffee-flavoured Chipits! Not a bean!
How in the name of all that is furry can I make my own Kahlua with these weird little palm kernel oil pellets that contain no coffee? Holy crap, Hershey’s, it’s a Christmas miracle that there’s even COCOA in them!
So here’s what happened next: My Kahlua knock-off project got aborted! Which left me with a bottle of vodka to pound. In other words, it was a win for me.
Not so much for my mother, though, who foolishly used the melted Chipits to make a cheesecake for Christmas dessert. Go figure, she thought those freaky little coffee-fakers would blend into the other ingredients and perhaps mellow out. But OMG, no. They did not mellow out at all. In fact, just one cup of those wretched little coffee-flavoured Chipits ruined dessert—every single guest left it uneaten! Not even to be polite would they eat that cake.
Those coffee-flavoured Chipits are an abomination.
So anyway, Hershey’s, you kind of wrecked Christmas dessert for us, which meant we had to get drunk instead. Which, in all honesty, I didn’t mind, but my family thought it kind of sucked.