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Andrew 'Andy' Ervin, Elkridge Club barman who was known for his signature Southsides, dies

Andrew 'Andy' Ervin, Elkridge Club barman who was known for his signature Southsides, dies
Elkridge Club head barman Andrew "Andy" Ervin shows off a Southside on Aug. 3, 2007. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Andrew “Andy” Ervin, the seasoned Elkridge Club head barman who could handle a cocktail shaker with the adroitness of quarterback Joe Flacco and through nearly six decades slaked the thirst of club members with his signature minty, chilled Southsides and tall frozen bourbons, died Thursday at Northwest Hospital of pneumonia.

The longtime Park Heights resident died the day after his 90 birthday.

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“Andy was more than the head barman. I always thought of him as the chairman of the board at Elkridge because he carried a lot of sway there. He was a beloved confidant, and people are just heartbroken over his death,” said Allan M. Waller, a Ruxton resident, and a club member for more than 35 years.

“He was a humble man who loved people and they loved him,” he said. “He was our spiritual adviser, and when it came time for my kids to have their first legal drink, they had it in Andy’s bar. He was like everyone’s favorite uncle or godfather.”

“Andy was an ambassador of goodwill and thoughtfulness to so many generations of Elkridge members — at least four generations. He was one of the all-time greats and one of a kind,” said Edward C. “Ned” Dukehart Jr., a former Glyndon resident who lives in Palm Beach, Fla. “There was no finer person on the face of the earth, and I can say that unequivocally.”

Andrew Ervin, who was born in Baltimore and raised on Belvedere and Federal streets, was the son of Robert Ervin, a railroad man, and Equlear Ervin, a homemaker.

He was a graduate of Dunbar High School and served in the Marine Corps in the early 1950s, an experience that proved to be such a pivotal one in his life that Mr. Ervin never tired of telling guests at the Elkridge bar of his exploits.

“He loved telling tales and spinning yarns, and they never got old,” Mr. Waller said.

“My dad got him hired at Elkridge,” said John A. “Jack” Luetkemeyer Jr. of Murray Hill. “Andy had been bartending on The Block, shining shoes and hustling. He did a little bit of everything.”

Mr. Ervin, who began his 63-year career at the North Baltimore country club in 1955, quickly became popular figure with club members and their families.

Known as “Mister Andy,” Mr. Ervin dressed for work in dark trousers, a vest, black bow tie and a crisp white shirt with a wing collar. He often enjoyed puffing on a cigar while working but gave that up nine years ago.

For years, the bar at Elkridge was stag only.

“When someone came in, he'd shout, ‘Hey, Old Man,’ ” Mr. Waller recalled.

“I’ve known Andy for 23 years and I was the first woman on the Elkridge board,” said Pam Meier of Roland Park. “In the days when Andy’s bar was strictly a man’s bar, he’d always come out and give me a hug. I have a special place in my heart for Andy. He was a very special man.”

Recalled Mr. Dukehart: “My parents were divorced and my father would drop me off at Elkridge on the way downtown. I’ve been hanging out with Andy since I was 14, and now I’m in my 70s.”

Mr. Ervin enjoyed getting to know and care for the children of club members, many of whom are now grown and club members.

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Mr. Ervin is legendary for his drinks.

“When I came here, there were no mixed drinks and a 5-ounce martini was 50 cents,” Mr. Ervin told a Baltimore Sun reporter last year in an unpublished interview. “One day a member asked me to make a drink that no one else made, and I said I would come up with something, and I came up with the frozen bourbon.”

Mr. Ervin explained that the drink was made with orange, lemon and lime juice, bourbon and ice, and is shaken and served in a 12-ounce mint julep cup. “They went crazy for it. Everyone tried to duplicate it, but couldn’t,” he said. “People came here from all over the world looking for that drink.”

”I only had Andy’s frozen bourbon once because it made me tipsy,” Ms. Meier said.

With the coming of spring and summer in Baltimore, when the mint returns, calls for the Southside can be heard through two area clubs, the Elkridge Club and Green Spring Hunt Club, and the drink is also a tailgating favorite at the springtime timber races.

Mr. Ervin gained lasting fame for his version of the Southside, a country club cocktail that supposedly had its beginning during Prohibition in the speak-easies on Chicago’s South Side, where it was composed of bootleg gin, sugar and citrus juices that were used to disguise the questionable quality of the gin.

To make it, he pulverized mint leaves, roots, stems, and added granulated sugar and lemon and lime juice.

“The chlorophyll comes from the leaves. I grind it up and then I strain it,” he said, but he refrained from explaining what gave the mix its overall green color. “It’s a secret.”

One club member described it as looking like swamp water.

To complete the cocktail, Mr. Ervin packed a 12-ounce glass with ice to which he added 4 ounces of rum. Gin or vodka, depending on the preference of the imbiber, could also be used. He topped it with a dash of club soda.

“It’s among the greatest rivalries in history: Hamilton vs. Burr, Army vs. Navy, Tom vs. Jerry and … Southside vs. Southside,” Baltimore Magazine reported in 2010.

Though he made oceans of Southsides for his customers, Mr. Ervin preferred to drink wine.

“I’m not much of a drinker or liquor man,” he said. “I like red wine because it doesn’t give me a headache. At bedtime, I have 3 ounces of brandy, which I mix with 2 ounces of milk. It puts me to sleep like a baby, and I don’t worry about anything until morning.”

Mr. Ervin, who retired last year, was made an honorary member of the club and feted at a large party in May.

“I had 63 wonderful years here. I can’t knock it; it’s been very good to me. I think of all the great friends I have here at the club,” he said in the interview.

“I love life and I love people. People ask me, ‘Do you ever complain?’ And I tell them, ‘No, there’s nothing I can do about it.’ I’m happy and I don’t let nothing upset me. If a man get upset, he has troubles.”

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Mr. Ervin was a longtime member of Gillis Memorial Baptist Church.

Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. March 27 at March Funeral Home at 5616 Old Court Road in Windsor Mill.

He is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, the former Lillien McGee; two stepsons, Gregory Page of Woodlawn and Rodney Higgins of Delta, Pa.; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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