Jerome Adams: Story behind the Hummer

Published on July 6th, 2014

When the cannon fires and the colorful spinnakers of more than 200 vessels catch the wind on Saturday (July 12) morning off Port Huron, it will mark the start of the 90th running of the Port Huron-to-Mackinac sailboat race, founded and produced by Detroit’s elite Bayview Yacht Club.

But the race isn’t the yacht club’s only claim to fame.

The Hummer cocktail – the thick, creamy, rum-and-Kahlua ice cream drink was born at the club in 1968, and the man who invented it is still there, blending them up by the gallon behind the polished wooden bar.

“I never thought it was going to be that big,” Jerome Adams, 74, says of the drink that landed him and the club in the cocktail history books.

But neither did he think he would work at Bayview for 47 years, appear as a celebrity bartender alongside mayors and commissioners, serve his famous drink at prestigious charity fund-raisers and make 36 trips to Mackinac Island for the finish of the Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, one of the longest freshwater sailboat races in the world.

Now Bayview’s bar manager, Adams will be on Mackinac again this year, helping stage the awards party for 2,000 to 3,000 racers and guests July 15 at the Grand Hotel. And sometime during the weekend, some newcomer may ask him the questions he has answered dozens of times before: How did he invent the Hummer – and how did it get that name?

From factory to bar
Adams, who grew up in rural Georgia, came to Michigan in 1964 and went to work at Ford Motor. But after three years, he couldn’t see spending his life in a factory, so he quit, intending to move nearer to family in New Jersey. To tide him over, friends who worked at Bayview got him a dishwashing job there. He planned to stay only a couple of weeks, but liked the place and stuck around. “I worked up fast,” Adams says. He became a porter, where his job was helping stock the bar, and soon was offered a bartender’s job.

At 26, he was replacing a man who had been there almost 30 years. “He was like a fixture of the club,” Adams recalls, and the guys who hung out at the rounded corner of the bar – they call it Dead Man’s Curve – weren’t going easy on the new kid.

“They’d come at noon … and they’d drink at that corner” and needle him, he says. “Anything that I did, (they said) I couldn’t do as well as he did it. … And that’s the reason I came up with the drink the Hummer.

“I started fooling around with something in the afternoon for a house drink” to prove himself, he says. One night after a hockey game, club member Ed Jacoby – owner of Jacoby’s restaurant downtown – came in with a couple of friends and saw a pitcher full of Adams’ ice cream concoction.

They asked to taste it – and liked it so much they asked for more, so Adams made another batch.

“Jacoby said, ‘You got a name for it?’ And I said no,” Adams said. “So of the guys standing there said, ‘You know what? After a couple of these things, it kind of makes you want to hum.’ And that’s where I came up with the name the Hummer.” – Detroit Free Press, read on

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