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Know Your Bartender

Jason Miller, L.J. Berube, Roman Kuzmiw,James Skelly, and Norman Greenspun

Photo: Jim Burger, License: N/A

Jim Burger

Jason Miller

Photo: Jim Burger, License: N/A

Jim Burger

L.J. Berube

Photo: Jim Burger, License: N/A

Jim Burger

Roman Kuzmiw

Photo: Jim Burger, License: N/A

Jim Burger

James Skelly

Photo: Jim Burger, License: N/A

Jim Burger

Norman Greenspun


Jason Miller, Pappas Sports Bar

Miller has stood behind the Formica-topped bar of this Parkville staple (1725 Taylor Ave., [410] 661-4357, pappascrabcakes.com) for a dozen years. It’s a neon-lit taproom where beer is served in glass mugs and the peanut shells get thrown on the floor. Billiard balls clack on the two tables in the next room. And traditional whiskey-drinking has never fallen from favor. Jim Beam, Early Times, and Jack Daniel’s are top sellers—usually mixed with Coke. “It’s consistent all year,” says Miller as he surveys the packed bar. “It’s not just a winter drink.” He notes that Maker’s Mark and Fireball, a cinnamon-flavored whiskey liqueur born in Canada, are coming on strong. Both were practically unheard of only a few years ago. Miller’s whiskey preference leans toward the smooth side of the scale. “I drink Gentleman Jack or Wild Turkey American Honey,” then adds with a smile, “works for me.” Top Sellers: Jim Beam, Early Times, Jack Daniel’s

L.J. Berube, Alonso’s

Since 1931, Alonso’s (413-415 W. Cold Spring Lane, [410] 235-3433, locohombre.com) has been beckoning North Baltimore’s thirsty citizens to its trademark airplane-metal bar. It’s the de facto clubhouse for the neighborhoods of Roland Park, Keswick, and Evergreen. In his five years pouring whiskey, Berube has seen several changes. “Scotch, especially single malt, has become a big seller,” he says. “And some of those Scotch drinkers used to drink bourbon. I’m also making a lot more classic cocktails like manhattans and old-fashioneds.” Berube credits this diversion in drinking habits to Mad Men, AMC’s boozy paean to America’s bygone advertising culture. Berube speaks with authority on the subject of whiskey—he is a faithful consumer of Jameson, though Maker’s Mark is far and away Alonso’s most popular whiskey. Top Sellers: Maker’s Mark, Crown Royal, Jameson

Roman Kuzmiw, Roman’s Place

Roman’s Place (2 S. Decker Ave., [410] 342-5226) is just the sort of off-the-beaten-path hole in the-wall that Baltimore’s hipsters like to discover. It’s in the front room of a rowhouse hidden on a side street—its roots date back to before Prohibition. Roman Kuzmiw has owned the joint since 1986. “Back then Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam used to run the whole thing, he says. “But over the years, all the whiskey has gotten sweeter.” Kuzmiw drinks Jameson, the bar’s most popular Irish whiskey. Several of Roman’s patrons are police officers and they prefer Jameson or Bushmills. “I don’t know if it’s a Catholic and Protestant thing,” he says, “but it’s pretty evenly divided.” Also in high demand is Heaven Hill, Kentucky bourbon. Customers specify shots poured from a bottle on the shelf or chilled in the cooler.Top Sellers: Jameson, Heaven Hill, Bushmills

James Skelly, James Joyce Pub

Like any good Irish pub, the James Joyce (616 S. President St., [410] 727-5107, thejamesjoycepub.com) gets high marks for atmosphere—plenty of wood, soft Gaelic music, and not a leprechaun or shamrock in sight. Bartender James Skelly and server Hayley Mackin bring 18 years of combined whiskey experience to every poured glass. They hail from Dublin and Dundalk, Ireland, respectively, and see their roles as more than waitstaff. “People come in here and ask for Bushmills because they think they’re supposed to,” says Mackin. “We try and give them direction and educate the customer.” And there’s plenty of direction to give—the pub’s whiskey menu is several pages long. The James Joyce Irish coffee is wildly popular in the winter; Powers Irish whiskey is the key ingredient. The 12-year-old Redbreast is Mackin’s drink of choice. Skelly is drawn to a 14-year-old Oban single malt Scotch. He points to the rising admiration for little-known single malts like Knappogue Castle as evidence that consumer tastes are changing and palates are becoming more sophisticated. Top Sellers: Powers, Jameson, Redbreast

Norman Greenspun, Frazier’s on the Avenue

Frazier’s on the Avenue (919 W. 36th St., [410] 662-4914) is the cornerstone of the Hampden bar scene. Its walls are virtually covered with beer signs, shelves of alcohol-related statues, and memorabilia—some dating back to the middle of the previous century, others as recent as last week. No North Baltimore pub crawl is complete without a stop at Frazier’s. Norman Greenspun—the owner, truth be told, not a regular bartender, though he has been known to pass drinks to the correct customer—sits at a table in the back barroom. On this Friday night, every stool is taken at both bars, and as many mixed drinks as beers fly across them. He sips his favorite, Crown Royal Reserve, on the rocks. Greenspun has owned Frazier’s for 15 years and has been in the bar business since the ’60s. He’s seen a lot of transformation. “It’s changed a great deal,” he says. “Back then, the whiskey choices were Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, and Canadian Club. Now—who ever heard of cinnamon whiskey?” He’s referring to Fireball, the spicy whiskey liqueur with a flaming red demon on the label. Currently in high demand, sales are brisk. “We sell four or five cases a week. Not bottles, cases!” Top Sellers: Fireball, Jameson, Evan Williams


Stay Warm... Drink Whiskey

Stay Warm Drink Whiskey | Whiskey 101 | Show Me the Way to the Next Whiskey Bar
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