An ode to the city's premier mixologists

July 14, 2002|By G. Jefferson Price III | G. Jefferson Price III,PERSPECTIVE EDITOR

One of the rarest creatures around here these days is a good, competent bartender.

There probably are more saloons and other sorts of drinking emporiums in the area now than there have been in ages. But most of them are tended by amateurs; some are pretty good looking, but they are not very well trained. A superior talent is hard to find in public places.

I speak of public places here because the people who tend bar at private places are unlikely to be intruded upon by strangers, so they know the clientele better and especially what that clientele wants to drink and how to mix it up.

They are professionals, for the most part. Fewer real professional mixologists work elsewhere.

I have known three excellent bartenders in this town, only one of whom is still at it. He is Adam Borowski, a graduate of Mount St. Joseph's, who honed his trade at Haussner's, the famed German restaurant in East Baltimore, and the Merchant's Club, both deceased. From there he moved on to the Calvert House, a block south of the Sun building, and a favorite watering hole for die-hard imbibers of this newspaper.

"Adz," as this true son of Highlandtown is known to his friends and customers, left the Calvert House late in 2000 to go tend bar at the new Marriott here. They made him cut off his ponytail but improved his financial security.

At the time, I wrote a letter of recommendation for Adam, from which I quote here to explain why I was so impressed by him:

"In all the years that I have been served by Mr. Borowski, he has demonstrated what I believe to be the most important qualities one would want from a bartender. Most important, he mixes an excellent martini and I have never seen him miss a beat at any request for any other drink. He is friendly, but not intrusive; humorous, but never silly; always attentive. He is a man who takes his work seriously but never makes it seem like a chore. He is fastidious and ever careful of his equipment. He cares not only about his own reputation, but the reputation of the establishment he serves. He is loyal to his customers and to his employers."

He also knows when it's time to call a cab for a customer who is too souped up to walk, but I did not include this in the recommendation.

The other two geniuses are not mixing drinks anymore. One never will again, because he has passed away.

This was Bonifacio Miranda, whom I first encountered at the Owl Bar in the Belvedere Hotel, where he was known widely among Baltimore's cognoscenti as the best mixer of martinis, manhattans and other classic cocktails.

Miranda, a native of Puerto Rico, held that the best proportions for a martini were about one part vermouth to five parts gin and no one would argue with him about it. For many years before, he had been the resident mixologist at the Eager House, a swank eatery and watering hole west of Charles Street.

I last saw Bonnie Miranda at the rooftop bar of what was then called the Peabody Court Hotel, now the Clarion. Miranda worked there almost until the day he died. He was so fastidious and respectful he could have been a butler at the Court of St. James. Amazing that such a small man could mix up the most astonishing staggeroos.

The last of the notorious three is probably the most appropriately named. He is Nathan Beveridge. Nathan was Bonnie's accompanist at the Peabody when I met him 15 years ago this month.

Unlike Bonnie, Nathan is a large man, built like a football center. But he moved with the grace of a dancer. His mixes were excellent and he offered the added attraction of performing magic tricks at the bar when the pace of business allowed. It's one thing to watch an egg come out of a magician's ear when you're a child; quite another to see it as an adult after a couple of cocktails.

Sad to say, Nathan does not tend bar anymore. He is a man of great success these days, owner of a saloon and eatery on Centre Street named the Midtown Yacht Club.

Like the Calvert House in its long-departed heyday, the Midtown has become a favorite imbibery of the Sun newsroom. But while Nathan runs the place, he hardly ever tends the bar, which is a great pity because I believe that every new reporter should see an egg come out of a bartender's ear at least once in life.

But something more dreadful has happened with Nathan. Recently, he opened up a trendy kind of club on the upper floors of his saloon. This was all right. But in his obsession for the avantest garde of trendiness, he has opened an "Oxygen Bar."

That's right, an oxygen bar. I learned of this while eating a sandwich at the real bar last week. Incredulous, I was invited to see the thing.

There it was, a real little bar with oxygen servers. People actually come to inhale the stuff, for which Nathan charges them $10 for the first 10 minutes and $1 for each additional minute. It comes in flavors: "groove" or "chamomile" (replenishing and calming) or "cloud lime" (invigorating and cleansing). There are others, but you get the picture.

Aghast, I asked Nathan if he had lost his mind. "Hey, man," he said. (Nathan is very hip.) "This is the only oxygen bar in the Baltimore area."

Why are we not surprised?

Examining this New Age contraption, I realized the oxygen was being served from a piece of what had been the bar at the old Peabody, where I had rediscovered Bonnie Miranda and discovered Nathan 15 years earlier.

Old Bonnie would not be pleased.

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