The idea: Simple. Four teams of three bartenders were dropped off at a store. They were given $100 to buy ingredients to make a drink. (Not including spirits, which were provided by Pernod-Ricard.)
The catch: The store was a slightly skeevy convenience store attached to a gas station somewhere on upper Elysian Fields in New Orleans. In Streetcar Named Desire, you take Elysian Fields to Desire. In reality, not so much.
The venue: The teams convened in the back room at Molly's at the Market on Decatur St. This was a catered affair, with fried chicken from some joint. There were two big boxes of chicken. Not much was eaten. You could have run a small car for a week on the oil collected in those boxes.
The drama: At the store, Team White 'N Nerdy (Chris Hannah, Nick Detrich, Matt Rey) headed straight to the dairy case. Here they blew most of their budget on eggs — they bought all 15 dozen eggs so no other team could use them in their drinks. The fate of the unused eggs remains unclear.
The treachery: Michael Glassberg from Team Bitter As Hell and Too Much Baggage managed to swipe a dozen eggs from the erstwhile monopolists. White 'N Nerdy: strategic advantage denied.
The creativity: Pork rind garnishes. Rims encrusted with crushed wintergreen Lifesavers. Red Hot infusions in lieu of Angostura bitters. Louisiana Hot Sauce.
The Bad: Most of the drinks, not surprisingly. When I taste cocktails I mentally start at 100 and then deduct points for flaws. Here, it was more efficient to start at zero and begrudgingly bestow a few points. A drink involving a peppered mango and too much salt tasted a bit like an Epsom Salts foot bath, after the feet had been removed. I mean that in a good way. I did add five points for the garnish of red-pepper encrusted mango (gas stations have mangos?) which looked like an enraged Gulf shrimp.
The ugly: Team White 'N Nerdy made a drink called the Nod Noggin, which was a Becherovka-based drink along with whatnot that made it disturbingly opaque and brown. However, the team showed considerable creativity in crafting a drink that left foamy brown rings around the glass as it was consumed. I tip my hat to this sly homage to the gas station rest room. Also, once I made this connection, I couldn't finish the drink. Nor could those around me after I helpfully pointed out the similarities.
The good: Team Electric Crabs (Murf Reeves, Liam Deegan, and Michelle Lunza) made a drink consisting of Martell Cognac, Strawberry NesQuik, King Cobra Malt Liquor and Karo syrup. With a Graham Cracker rim. I took a sip, first making sure a spit cup was within reach. And the drink was... how can I put this... actually quite good. It was, in fact, remarkably balanced. You could taste each of the ingredients separately, and it came together in an unexpectedly interesting way. I would order another one. (Recipe below.) Electric Crabs took the prize from the judges. (Those sitting in judgement were Keith Marzalek, Chris and Laura McMillian, and Chris Patino.)
Oh, the humanity! This idea for Station Libations — held the evening of December 14 — came from a dark part of Rhiannon Enlil's shriveled, bitter heart. One can only hope more of her events fill the calendars of 2012.
After School Special
1.5 oz Martell Cognac
2 oz Strawberry NesQuik
1/2 oz King Cobra Premium Malt Liquor
1/2 oz Karo Syrup
Shake like a fiend with ice. Strain and serve.