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Bars We Love: Bad Decisions, Baltimore

Bars We Love: Bad Decisions, Baltimore: Christian Parent

Christian Parent

Drinking is easy. Finding the right bar, not so easy. We’re here to help. As a public service to all of you thirsty explorers, every week we highlight the best bars in America and tell you what makes them so damn great. This week we’ve got the laid-back dive bar that introduced cocktails to Baltimore.

NAME: Bad Decisions
LOCATION: Fells Point, Baltimore, Maryland
EST: 2008
ON THE JUKEBOX: Reel Big Fish, Toto, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

WHAT TO ORDER (NEWBIES): Moonlight cocktail made with Singani (grape brandy): Singani, Yellow Chartreuse, dry vermouth and citrus
WHAT TO ORDER (REGULARS): Eldorado daiquiri: Eldorado rum, citrus juice and sugar

WHY WE LOVE IT: Fells Point in Baltimore has been a bar neighborhood for 300 years. So when Baltimore native John Reusing decided to open a dive, he knew that’s where he wanted to be. In fact, the location he picked for his bar, Bad Decisions, had been a bar since 1936. “Before we got it, a Dominican family was running prostitutes and coke out of here,” Reusing says. “We got rid of the coke.”

Christian Parent

Christian Parent

Bad Decisions is a dive to its core—the bar’s Twitter feed documents the strange things staff members find in the bathrooms—but it has become known for its extensive liquor collection and ahead-of-its-time cocktail program. Reusing has 900 unique bottles on display. “Originally I was just this lunatic collector and needed to justify bringing in all of these weird bottles,” he says. “So it became, OK, what cocktails can we make with this? If you’re going to have 900 kinds of spirits it makes sense that you know how to use them all.”

In 2008 when the bar opened, there wasn’t a cocktail scene in Baltimore. People drank light beer and Grand Marnier shots. “Our first year or so we spent a lot of time teaching people that they didn’t have to be scared of gin,” he says. “After a couple of years when other places started opening that were serving cocktails, we could stretch our wings a little bit and get more adventurous.”

People still get angry and leave when they find out that Bad Decisions doesn’t serve light beer. But a lot more are curious about what Bad Decisions does serve like its flips and Corpse Reviver variations. For Derby Day, people came in asking about mint juleps: What is it and can you make me one? (A mix of bourbon, sugar, mint and crushed ice, and yes.) Despite all of its drinking options, Bad Decisions only has a single, hand-written cocktail menu. Reusing rewrites “The Book,” as he calls it, once a year to keep it up-to-date. “On busy nights you have to wait your turn,” he says. “If you can’t handle that, this isn’t the bar for you.”

Christian Parent

Christian Parent

Alyson Sheppard is the resident hangover specialist at Find her on Twitter: @amshep

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