The best part of living in a college neighborhood is that our liquor store always has the latest in cutting-edge flavored booze technology.

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[Photograph: LastClick on Stockxchange.com]

My corner liquor store sells canisters of alcoholic whipped cream by the cash register. In any other year I would have mocked it for a minute and then forgotten it forever, but in this winter of my outdoor ambition, it seemed worth investigating.

I have always lived in the Northeast and probably always will, which makes no damn sense because since earliest childhood I have hated winter. My disinclination to feel my snot freeze while waiting for the school bus was compounded by my Oklahoman father's disdain for all winter games. I was the only sports-mad middle-class white kid in Massachusetts who never learned to ski, skate, or shoot things while skiing and skating. So I spent four months a year trying to tactically misbehave in such a manner as to land in one of those horrifying boot camp schools that 60 Minutes and my parents always held up as the world's least effective threat.

20110119creamvanilla.jpgMy research assistant, however, comes from a snow-loving people, and in one of the tiny compromises I take way too much pride in, I willed myself to buy her snowshoes for Christmas. I know what you're thinking: "What an unscientific thing to give your research assistant! And snowshoes come in the same size box as microscopes! The poor dear must have been so disappointed!" But we whiled away several pleasant hours in the snow last week and she swears she loved it, so there.

The best part of any winter sport, obviously, is drinking spiked hot things immediately afterward. And the best part of living in a college neighborhood is that our liquor store always has the latest in cutting-edge flavored booze technology. This means I have access to the Western Hemisphere's most comprehensive selection of alcoholic whipped cream with which to fortify my post-snowprandial hot chocolate. I bypassed cherry and chocolate offerings in favor of a $12 can of 30-proof Cream-brand vanilla.

It shot out of the can with the strident elegance of regular whipped cream and held its form for several minutes on a flat surface; I applaud the aerosol food industry for maintaining structural integrity despite the addition of "15 percent grain neutral spirits," but it was all downhill from there. It smelled a little funky and tasted awful. I'm not sure if the harsh tang was caused by poorly balanced, low-grade alcohol or if the fake vanilla flavoring was to blame. The defects were less noticeable when taken with rummed-up hot chocolate, but it's not worth the slight ABV bump. Your apr├Ęs-snow reward will be far better served by Reddi-wip and an extra glug of real liquor.

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