Doing it the Old-Fashioned way: Dallas bartenders face off at whiskey competition

By Charlie Tips Ferrin, Smyth

This apple-walnut Old-Fashioned took second-place honors at the competition. (Marc Ramirez)

“We’re kind of scrunched for space, but I’m doing the best I can,” Smyth bartender Ryan Sumner said as he kicked off the Clyde May’s Whiskey Old-Fashioned competition at The People’s Last Stand with a version featuring apple bitters, demerara syrup and the French bitter Suze. Consider this post Old-Fashionably late: It’s been a couple of weeks since 16 bartenders vied for the top prize of $500, each with up to six minutes to make and present their drink for the judges. Clyde May’s was the vehicle here, an apple-ish, bordering-on-caustic whiskey with some colorful moonshine roots, and each contestant spun a different version of the cocktail stalwart while adhering to its traditional mix of whiskey, sweetener, bitters and water.

Clyde May's Old Fashioned competition at The People's Last Stand

Chase Streitz of Sissy's Southern Kitchen serving up his twist on the classic cocktail. (Marc Ramirez)

Cinnamon, vanilla, peach and apple (of course) were popular flavors. One of my favorite versions came from Greg Matthews of Oak Cliff’s Ten Bells Tavern, who froze Mudsmith Coffee’s steeped toddy into cubes and punctuated his whiskey concoction with a Mexican vanilla sugar, hazelnut bitters and a vanilla/hazelnut garnish.

Clyde Mays Old-Fashioned competition at The People's Last Stand

The vanilla-accented version from Ten Bells' Greg Matthews featured coffee ice cubes. (Marc Ramirez)

La Duni’s Daniel Guillen shone, too, gussying up his Old Fashioned with sherry, Campari and a roasted red pepper and pecan jam. And Smyth’s Charlie Tips Ferrin, like his compatriot Sumner, served his summery green apple/walnut drink in little mason jars – “in the spirit of the moonshine that it came from,” he said.

Clyde May's Old-Fashioned competition at The People's Last Stand

Ryan Fussell of Ruth's Chris Steak House prepares a fig garnish for his Old Fashioned variation. (Marc Ramirez)

Brad Bowden of The People’s Last Stand infused his whiskey with smoked peaches, while Ryan Fussell of Ruth’s Chris Steak House strived to use ingredients that would have been available in the 1800s, when the classic cocktail was born. He topped it with a warm fig garnish.

Clyde May's competition

Brad Bowden of The People's Last Stand infused whiskey with smoked peaches for his entry. (Marc Ramirez)

In the end it was Smyth’s Omar YeeFoon who walked away with top honors, flavoring his version with Plantation 5-year-old rum, Angostura and tiki bitters, cane syrup and a light dash of orange oils.  With Ferrin placing second and Sumner taking third, it was a Smyth sweep, which if nothing else proved the speakeasy boys could come through in scrunch time.

Clyde May's Old-Fashioned competition at The People's Last Stand

Smyth's Omar YeeFoon with the double stir on his way to the evening's top honors. (Marc Ramirez)

And if you’d like to see Smyth’s Ryan Sumner explain the method behind his Old Fashioned twist, here’s a link to my YouTube video.

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