Last evening The Usual in Fort Worth played host to 7 bartenders from across Dallas and Fort Worth including gents from Bolsa, Smoke, Whiskey Cake, Bob’s Steak and Chop House, Del Frisco’s, and a Kelly from Grace in Fort Worth who was the only female contender.
At stake was a pair of Cowboy play-off tickets and bragging rights. The latter seemed more of the coveted prized than the former.
Each bartender would use Makers Mark 46, the high end spirit that uses seared French oak planks inside the barrel to draw out more flavors. The product’s name reflects the profile number attached to the process and is a slightly higher proof than the regular Makers Mark. The result of the new process is a less sweet liquor with richer tones and stronger notes of vanilla and cinnamon.
The objective last evening was to create a cocktail using the Maker’s 46 with flavors to reflect the Fall season. As one of the judges I was looking forward to sampling each of the cocktails, and with the competition in the room I knew each of the concoctions would be bright and innovative.
Out of the starting gate each of the bartenders were eager and brought secret ingredients that they felt gave them an advantage. The extra potions included house-made bitters, infusions and fruits of the season.
In the end, the judging took almost as long as the cocktails took to make themselves. The debate over each drink presented more controversy as each judge had their favorites.
Sean from Whiskey Cake made a libation entitled “Humble Pie” that that had cherry and chocolate flavors that was high on the judges list, as was Adem’s from the Fort Worth Del Frisco that was a play on a root beer float, but with pumpkin spice flavors. He went as far as to make an ice cube from a creamy spice mixture then crushed it at the last minute to allow the drink to foam and blend with the Makers and root beer.
Another top not was simple drink made from Makers and a candy red hot solution by the only female contender, Kelly from Grace in Fort Worth. The discussion ran hot when comparing this cocktail to a few of the other top guns that were voted highly.
In the end Kyle Hilla from Bolsa took top honors and the Cowboy tickets for his Peychaud bitters, Art of the Age Gingersnap Liquor, Apple Spice Bitters, Makers Mark 46 and an absinthe rinse that he called Not Your Mother’s Apple Pie.
Brad Hensarling, owner of The Usual was excited to see all the competition coming out and offered, “There are competitions like this every few months, sometimes more often and it is good to have everyone come together like this.”
Hensarling has long been considered one of the best bartenders in the DFW area also mentioned that the new Fall season would see more cocktails surrounded by cognac and rum and the brandy improved cocktail, or what might be a brandy Sazerac. You will also be seeing more teas, smoke, anise and other interesting flavor combinations.