Top Chef's Gail Simmons chainsaws ice at The Gin Joint and I incur the wrath of Tom Colicchio

The Gail

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Joe Raya schools Gail Simmons on the finer points of cocktail making - BRAVO TV
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  • Joe Raya schools Gail Simmons on the finer points of cocktail making
I'm hesitant to even write another Top Chef post lest I incur the wrath of Tom. For reference, this weekend Tom Colicchio, Top Chef's head judge, got a little testy with me following my story "Top Chef: Charleston Ep. 3 — No love for the radish farmers?"

In the story, I questioned why the Bravo show hadn't credited the local radish farmers whose produce was the subject of the last week's episode. GrowFood Carolina, who organized the radish sales, was especially frustrated after they sold 10 coolers to the show but saw no farm names in the episode. "We begged Top Chef to film at GrowFood and highlight the amazing farmers, but no love," they said.

Colicchio was not moved. In a tweet to me, the liberal celebrity chef said, "Perhaps you should do your homework before stirring the pot. Very Trump like."


That's right, boys and girls, questioning why local farmers weren't named in a show all about Charleston cooking is apparently on par with calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. You got me, Tom. I've been outed. Make America Eat Great Again.

That said, Colicchio later recanted, saying, "apologies for the Trump comment." So... we cool, Tom? (I'll check my Twitter account later to be sure.)



With all that in mind, let's tiptoe into a conversation about Gail Simmons' visit to the Gin Joint.

In a blog post on Bravo's Top Chef page today, Simmons stopped by the cocktail haven for a lesson from owner Joe Raya. But this wasn't a deep dive into drink-making so much as it was a chance for the judge to weld a chainsaw. Raya hand-cuts all the ice at his bar and Simmons got to give his chainsaw a spin, cutting an enormous block into two-inch pieces.

As Robert Moss wrote in 2012, Raya is something of an ice nerd. He uses a Clinebell CB300x2 to create his perfect cubes. "Created to freeze water for ice sculptures, the Clinebell creates flawless, crystal-clear, 300-pound blocks of ice, which Raya and his team lift from the machine with an engine hoist. They go to work on it with chainsaws, Japanese handsaws, and finally ice picks to carve it down into just the right sizes they need for cocktails."

And Simmons loved it as well as the drink Raya made for her. Come to find out, Simmons went to cocktail school prior to culinary school and she was all about Raya's use of Old Grand Dad Bourbon — Harry Truman's fave. She liked it so much she dubbed the drink he made her The Gail. Should you care to make one at home, here's the recipe:

Gin Joint's The Gail
2 oz. Old Grand Dad Bourbon
3/4 oz. Ginger Honey Syrup
3/4 oz. Fresh lemon juice
Handful of sage muddled
Lemon twist
Garnish with sage

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