By Amy McNeal
Specialty drinks are a big part of the holiday season. Everyone has a favorite, something that puts them in the spirit of the season. I spoke with John Reusing, owner of the Fells Point bar Bad Decisions regarding his holiday inspirations, the holiday traditions that are celebrated at Bad Decisions and finding the holiday spirit in one of Baltimore’s favorite local bars.
Q: Does the bar do holiday drink specials, and what are the typical drink specials that your bar runs for the holidays?
A: At Bad Decisions, my selection varies depending on the season and there is always seasonal fruit to complement the drinks. During the holidays I tend to have a lot of pomegranates and blood oranges. These go into martinis, champagne drinks, cocktails and all kinds of fun stuff. There is also always hot-spiced cider and hot buttered rum. Also for weekends, snowstorms and special events I can make other things: glug (Scandinavian mulled wine served with dates and gold raisins), eggnog (including my famous Nutella nog), and homemade hot cocoa, which we mix with a peanut cream rum. I’d say the most popular of the bunch is the blood orange martini, with the hot-spiced cider a close second.
Q: How do you bring the holiday spirit into the bar?
A: We don’t really decorate or put on holiday music, I let the drinks be the focus point. And you will see festive colorful drinks all down the bar when you come in on a busy night. We do get a lot of ugly sweater and Santa bar crawls that pass through during the holidays which is always fun.
Q: Does the bar hold private parties, participate in charity events or hold special events?
A: We do private parties, and several small businesses have rented the place for their holiday party because of our drinks. I also do charity events when a group approaches me. Last year in early December we did an Applejack night to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Q: What’s your typical crowd makeup during the holiday season?
A: The crowd of Bad Decisions is a very mixed bag. We don’t sell much beer, and have no wine list. It’s always a mix of people who like good drinks and high-end spirits. It’s not uncommon for someone in their early 20s trying their first scotch to be sitting next to a group of women out of the house for girls’ night, and sharing the bar with some older men drinking Amaro.
Q: What inspires you as a bartender during the holiday season?
A: I personally get inspired by all the holiday flavors you can play with that would be out of place the rest of the year. Lots of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg make it into my drinks this time of year. Anything that’s warm and makes you feel cozy.
Q: What’s the general holiday vibe at Bad Decisions?
A: I think it’s a happy time of year for my customers. And this is a place where you can get away from the stress of the season. No relatives here unless you bring them, no shopping mall vibe and no lines.
Q: What’s your favorite part of the holiday season at Bad Decisions?
A: My favorite part is the quiet time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There are some customers, but not many. And usually it’s all friends and regulars coming in to say hi, share a drink, and maybe some leftovers. Last year one of them said they liked spending the day with the family they chose (us at the bar) better than the one they were born into.
1928 Fleet Street
Baltimore, Md. 21231
Hours: Monday – Saturday 5 p.m. -2 a.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Amy McNeal is a writer and journalist living in Bowie, Md. A Baltimore native, she’s constantly intrigued by her city’s vibrant and unique culture.