Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Quickfire Cocktail Challenge during Top Chef

During the first commercial break in the Top Chef 4 season premier, I raced into the kitchen with the task of making a rusty nail (my favorite drink), but without the Drambuie. RVA Foodie, you have 3 minutes to complete this quickfire challenge. "Yes, chef." Starting... now.

Introducing a new drink: Shiva's Liquid Linga (aka a Henna Tattoo)
By the way, I'm a Top Chef junkie and now that The Wire has abandoned me, I'm happily rebounding with my other TV love. This space will not, however, be a TC4 blog (although maybe in the comments of this post). There are experts that you can consult for such needs, if you have them.

In my cupboard, all I had was scotch, having run out of the overpriced Drambuie liqueur during the week. Several bartenders have informed me that there is no suitable alternative for the mysterious scotch derivative cordial. I had only a moment to concoct something sweet to cut thru my Dugan's Dew scotch (always on sale for much less than Dewar's).

I'm thinking notes of licorice, mint, maybe a more mellow flavor to smooth those out. I pulled some prepared simple syrup (sugar water) from the fridge and pictured a box of fennel or anise tea that I could brew and reduce quickly. My tea drawer had no such box, so I grabbed some Yogi brand Indian Spice Tea (basically chai): complex, spicy, and featuring the flavors I needed , but kicked up several notches. A tea bag went into a cup with 1-2 oz of water and I microwaved it for one minute, removed and squeezed the bag and microwaved it for another 30 secs to reduce it. Then, I mixed this with roughly the same amount of simple syrup.

With a minute left on the clock, I made my drink as I always make my rusty nails (1 part sweet liqueur, and 3 parts scotch with two ice cubes). On my way back to the couch, with the Top Chef theme music starting up, I'm making a short list of names for my new drink (whether it's drinkable or not). Hmmm, a rusty nail with an Indian twist... liquid nails? a rusty chai? um, henna...

The drink isn't bad at all. I hate scotch by itself, but this concoction, like a rusty nail, makes the liquor go down without a hint of yuck face. My drink was a little watery, cuz the tea didn't reduce enough. It's also not as strong as a rusty nail, because there's no alcohol in my cheap imitation Drambuie liqueur. However, the chai spice loved the sugar and together they put a smile on my face (or maybe that was the scotch). The chai competes with the scotch a bit instead of complimenting it (like Drambuie), but what do you expect for a substitution that costs pennies on the dollar in comparison.

What shall I name this drink? A Henna Tattoo or (Shiva's) Liquid Linga?

If you're familiar with Hindu symbols, you'll know that the Linga is the representation of the phallus or male reproductive energy. Shiva uses this "symbol" to tame wild goddesses, or so the story goes. I wanted to stick with the "liquid nails" idea, and this is where I wound up (being a lover of alliteration and mysticism). The Henna Tattoo idea just seems like it'd go over bigger at Beach Week than my literary creation.

How's that for an impromptu 3 minute challenge?


  1. Sounds like an interesting beverage. One must be careful when indulging though. I wasn't and fell asleep in my chair just as judges table began. When M woke me up I fussed a bit but as I had guessed the loser correctly didn't rewind the TV.

  2. i am a HUGE top chef fan - i typically can pick my front runner in the first episode but not this one.

  3. I have to admit that I was too busy writing and drinking for this post to really take in the new contestants. However, I will admit that when I have gotten attached or disgusted by a chef, I often wind up disappointed or won over, as the caase may be.

    This season, watching the first episode, I couldn't help feeling like I had seen all of these people before, like they were all plucked off of a checklist to match the requisite demographics and orientations of a successful reality show. Clearly, I'm a little jaded, and I will come to appreaciate these folks for who they are eventually... but if I see another goddamn "faux hawk" hairdo, I'm gonna quit this TV watching business all together.

  4. i have to agree with you. it is "almost" like they are in the business of selecting that one guy that uses all those vides, smokers and other black magic for his nouveau comfort food. it is watching the same show over and over again (is that the definition of insanity?). and yet, i have dead dog on the highway syndrome.

  5. renato5:41 PM

    like top chef??
    check out the top chef blog !


This site has moved to
Please comment there instead.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.