Jerome Adams died with his wife, Denise, by his side early on Saturday (3.07) morning according to a statement from the Bayview Yacht Club. Although Adams never delivered a lecture at Tales or authored a cocktail book, he left his own indelible mark as a bartender. He was a bastion of a small community in Detroit and internationally, he was responsible for the Hummer, Michigan’s unofficial state drink and a staple of marina bars.
Adams started working at the Yacht Club in 1967. In less than a year, he worked his way up from dishwasher to porter to bartender. After assuming his perch behind the bar, Adams stayed there for half of a century, five nights a week.
In the words of the mourners, he was a landmark, an icon, and the soul of community. He was the type of bartender who became an extra family member over generations.
On social media, one member remembered Adams as the first person to address her by her married name. Another member remembered that in the pre-cel phone era, calling Adams at the club (VA2-9595) was the best way to reach her father. Long time patrons reminisced about progressing from Adams’ Shirley Temples to beers to scotch back to Adams making them Shirley Temples for their own children.
However, it is the Hummer that spread Adams legend across the open seas. (A few years ago, the Detroit Metro Times did an excellent job chronicling the beverages roots in detail, but here is abridged version.)
The Hummer is delicious, rum and ice cream based drink that is second nature to Michiganers. “With the Last Word, it’s one of Detroit’s most well known drinks,” explained Detroit based cocktail guru Nick Britsky. “It’s a calorie bomb and I have a love/hate relationship with it but I respect its impact on the industry and its popularity with the public.”
The cold creation was invented during Adams first year at Bayview. At the time, he was working hard to ingratiate himself with the customers. When, he took the job behind the bar, Adams was succeeding the popular Curtis Hicks, who had served as head barman for an impressive 18 year run, a tough act to follow.
The new guy decided that the best way to get in with the guests was to create his own signature drink. “I had tried all different things. I used rum, I used vodka, I used scotch. I used everything. But the best taste was with rum, Kahlúa and ice cream,” he told the Times. “So, one night, I had a little, small blender then, and it was big enough to make maybe three or four of these drinks.”
Adams then set out to deliver the samples to the back of house for tasting. However, before he made it to the kitchen, he ran into a few regulars arriving from a hockey game. The group served as taste tester—and they loved it. In fact, the patrons asked Adams to make another round.
Legend has it that one of the barman’s newfound friends declared, “You know what? After two of these damn things, kinda makes you wanna hum.” And so was born the name “Hummer.”
In short order, the cooling beverage was all the range in Detroit and then the entire region. Then, the world…
Mind you, the Hummer was concocted in a yacht club. The club’s members travelled to ports far and wide for regattas and leisure sailing. They bought the Hummer with them. It is still not unusual for the Bayview Yacht Club to receive a call from a harborside bar in the southern hemisphere with an urgent plea for help making the drink.
Thus a two legends were born: the Hummer and Adams. The Hummer continued its meteoric rise for years and Adams settled into the Bayview where he was soon part of the family.
Jerome Adams battle with cancer was a costly affair. The family asks that any donations be made towards a fund dedicated to defraying the expenses surrounding the beloved barman’s final days. More details here.
Raise a Hummer to Adams tonight. His original recipe follows.
The Hummer Cocktail
- Combine ingredients in a blender.
- Serve in a 7.5 oz. rocks glass.