A Drink With a Past
Back then, Kurt Hernon was still working as an air traffic controller at the Oberlin Municipal Airport. He began, as so many do, as a cheap beer drinker, then evolved into a home brewer. One Christmas, he and his wife, Page, decided they wanted a signature cocktail to serve each year.
They chose Ward 8, a concoction of rye whiskey, lemon juice, orange juice and a dash of something sweet. It was created in 1898 in Boston to celebrate an election that was won thanks to the voters of — you guessed it — ward 8.
It was a good idea that went bad.
“The recipe I had was all this nonsense including powdered sugar,” Hernon says, wrinkling his nose. “We would choke it down and say, ‘Oh, that’s kind of fancy.’”
After three years of doing that, Hernon tracked down the original recipe. “That was a revelation,” he says. “There are ways to make good drinks. And I just kept learning.”
Around the same time, the internet was taking off. Kurt realized he could not only look up recipes, he could order bottles of vintage spirits that were long forgotten by the masses — Chartreuse, which was concocted at a monastery in France in 1605; Campari, which was the result of experiments done in 1860 in Novara, Italy; and Old Tom Gin, which was popular in 18th century England.
“It became an education,” Hernon says.
And then it became something more. Friends encouraged the Hernons to open a cocktail catering business. That went well and evolved into a pop-up business. Everyone loved the drinks — and appreciated the sense of history behind them.
Opening their own bar was the inevitable next step, especially since their two kids had left the nest. The couple sold their colonial near Lakeview Park and bought a two-story brick storefront on West Fifth Street. They moved into the second floor and began renovating the ground floor.
The first stroke of luck was finding a 90-year-old mahogany-topped bar for sale on Craigslist. “We went out and saw it and said, ‘Yes, this is absolutely perfect,’” Hernon says, laying his hands on the wood. “This bar made it all happen.”
Hernon had the drink menu covered with classic cocktails like the Sidecar ($9) and lesser-known drinks like the Cuba Libre ($8), which is made with amber rum, fresh lime and Coca-Cola.
But it was the second stroke of luck that led to the gourmet pizzas on the menu, including Devil’s Kiss ($15), featuring grilled salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, banana peppers and pepper flakes. “It was a happy connection with Smash food truck,” Kurt says. “Now they come in here every day and take care of the food. It’s the perfect marriage.”
So far, business has been good, and it looks like Hernon’s dream is working out, but what does Page think about all of it? “I was probably more risk-averse of the two of us,” she says. “I always joke that it’s not the first time I held his hand and jumped off a cliff, and we’ve always landed.”
The one easy decision was to open their bar in Lorain. “We’ve been here 26 years,” Hernon says. “We love this city, and we always said we would only do this here.”