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OKG Newsletter

Food and Drink Features

Hot shots

With a box full of liquor and a houseful of friends, a little creativity can make for a night you won’t soon forget — for better or worse.

Charles Martin May 4th, 2011

Shots are often derided as an immature drink for the unrefined drinker, but a glimpse through any bartending guide reveals a complex world of mixology.

Reminiscent of jazz, it’s full of improvisation, offering a variety of tastes and styles with influences pulled from just about every bottle behind the bar.

While lacking the depth of a good glass of wine or the exquisite burn of an oak-soaked bourbon, quite a bit of creativity goes into the blending — and naming — of these often-overlooked cocktails.

Shots, or “shooters,” are typically 1 to 4 ounces of a blend of alcohol and nonalcoholic mixers designed to be ingested quickly, rather than savored. In the name of research, volunteers over 21 were assembled with a box full of whatever spirits could be scrounged up from liquor cabinets. The rules were simple: 2-ounce shots would be designed by each guest, consumed and, at the end of the night, voted upon. Before the games began, designated drivers were enlisted, couches were prepared for overnight guests, and aspirin was stocked.

above DeKuyper’s Red Headed Burst bottles line a shelf at The Wine Barrel, 16401 N. Rockwell.

When planning my own recipe, I cheated by eyeing popular recipes for inspiration, and it was stunning how many different liquors and mixers it took to create just a small array of shots. Some 2-ounce shooters can have five or more ingredients, which is why liquor stores stock mixes for the party-thrower not wanting to walk out with 20 bottles just to make a handful of drinks.

“The people buying them are usually younger, between 21 and 35, and they are bringing them to parties,” said Laura Yeager, part owner of The Wine Barrel at 16401 N. Rockwell. “Even our wine drinkers or our higher-end scotch drinkers might get  them if they are throwing a party over the holidays or on July 4. It’s already made; they don’t have to hassle with it or buy four different things to make the shots.”

A word of caution: Hangovers are defined by as the body’s natural reaction to being poisoned with too much alcohol. In 2005, a team of UK researchers found no silver-bullet cure for such. Since shots are among the most reliable suspects when it comes to hangovers, tread carefully.

Unlike cocktails, shots aren’t diluted by mixers and can inject a lot of alcohol into a person’s system, quickly overwhelming the body’s metabolism. So, ahead of any night of concocting highoctane elixirs, designated drivers are a must, as is moderation, or else the adult party might be relocated to the emergency room for a round of stomach-pumping.

As far as our research went, the more refined palates used to the complex, velvety embrace of Cabernet Sauvignon quickly buckled under the sugary blast common in just about every recipe.

The few players with bartending experience managed a handful of tasty combinations, but others threw caution to the wind ... and crashed and burned.

The big winner was the Red Snapper, with equal parts cranberry juice, amaretto and spiced rum. The Ry-Ry featured eggnog, vodka, butterscotch schnapps and amaretto; High on Fire was tequila, raspberry liquor and orange juice. “Best name” went to I Walk with a Zombie, made of spiced rum, triple sec and Goldschläger, which sadly failed to place in the “taste” category.

The general consensus among the dedicated volunteers: There is a good reason shots are gulped rather than sipped; but like a good jazz tune, when it all falls together just right, you can be left with something special.

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