Bartender’s Choice – Babe’s bartender creates sensory experiences

Photo Submitted: Adam Dillon

By Deborah Lynch

In this issue, we introduce you to a new column that will feature area bartenders pouring advice on their favorite cocktails and how to prepare them at home. An informed drinker can order a better cocktail. My family lovingly jokes about my father-in-law who always orders a whiskey sour when he goes out. When asked what whiskey he wants, he proudly replies, “Bartender’s choice” because he doesn’t really know (or maybe even like) whiskey and maybe really just likes the sour mix. The drink he will be served probably will not compare in quality to the one ordered by someone who knows what they are ordering.  

Our bartenders might offer you tips on whiskeys (or other spirits) to try and the nuances between them. They will share a drink recipe for you to try at home, too. 

Each issue will feature a different bartender. If you’d like to nominate someone you know who mixes memorable drinks, please send your nominations with contact information and a brief paragraph explaining why you think this bartender is the best to Harrisburg Magazine at Here’s our first guest columnist. Thanks for sipping.

Adam Dillon

Our first guest bartender is Adam Dillon, a bourbon aficionado who keeps bar at Babe’s at 312 E. Main St. in Palmyra on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 4 p.m. until close. Although tending bar is his avocation — by day he is an executive recruiter for The Carlisle Group — Dillon has 20 years of experience behind the bar at bars, restaurants, joints, and country clubs in Baltimore and Central PA. Today, he only continues to tend bar because he has the opportunity to work alongside Dave and Kylie Deimler at Babe’s in Palymra.

Dillon says he could see himself continuing to tend bar when he retires. He enjoys spirits, learning more about them, and creating his own drinks. He takes his own advice to home mixologists, “Have fun! It’s not your job!”

Still, Dillion acknowledges that creating great drinks is both an art and a science, and does require some background or research. He suggests watching established bartenders on YouTube channels like “The Educated BarFly” or “Truffles on the Rocks.” He also advises home mixologists to get the proper bar equipment: julep strainer; Hawthorne strainer; fine mesh strainer; 28 oz. and 18 oz. tins; double jiggers of 1 oz. and 2 oz., and .5 oz. and .25 oz.; muddler; bar spoon; mixing glass. These supplies are relatively inexpensive and can be found easily on Amazon.

“Don’t be afraid to try different things … sometimes the things that don’t sound like they would pair well together do,” he said. Other tips: pay attention to details; express an orange for the oils; don’t overstir a drink to avoid diluting it; make precise pours (no showy free pours); and add ice after the drink is constructed.

Dillon’s Drink Dossier

Inspirations: New York City bars — Employee’s Only, The Dead Rabbit, Dante, Death & Company
Favorite spirit straight: Henry McKenna 10-year bonded and Sam Houston 14-year
Try these bourbons: Four Roses, Bulleit, Woodford, Elijah Craig, Blanton’s, Basil Hayden, Angel’s Envy, Colonel E.H. Taylor, Eagle Rare, Henry McKenna 10-year-bonded, Weller
Favorite drinks to mix: Pre-prohibition cocktails — Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Negroni, Boulevardier
The most commonly ordered drinks at your bar:Silver Fox Manhattan (Dillon’s creation), Campfire Old Fashioned, White Mirror Cosmo
Philosophy on drinks:Drinks must be consistent, balanced, and delicious. They should be an experience and make an impression. The way to do this is first through the presentation, second through smell, and finally, by taste.
Any thoughts about your cocktails: Let customers be a part of it — they love watching the process. Create an experience. No shortcuts.

Dillon’s signature recipes:

Silver Fox Manhattan
2 oz. Bulleit bourbon
.75 oz. Grand Marnier
.75 oz. Carpano’s Antica sweet vermouth
⅛-¼ inch thick slice of orange peel
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, then add ice, stir, and pour. Zest or express the orange peel slice over the cocktail. Twist it, then rub the peel on the rim of the glass, and drop the peel in the glass for garnish.

Sticky Fingers Old Fashioned
2 oz. Knob Creek
1 oz. dark molasses/brown sugar simple syrup
Barspoon of cherry juice (Lux cherry)
Angostura orange bitters (a few shakes)
Lux cherry
⅛-¼ inch thick slice of orange peel
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass then add ice, stir, and pour. Zest or express the orange peel over the cocktail. Twist it, then rub the peel on the rim of the glass, and drop peel in glass for garnish. Add a cherry on a cocktail pick for added garnish.