There’s a lot to know.
First off, his last name is pronounced “McKernan,” and he’s from Ardboe, County Tyrone.
Second, he’s been working in the bar business for a long while.
“When I was 13, 14 years old, my dad had a bar, Duff’s Corner,” he says. “That was in Ardboe. I’m 30 now.”
He actually started tending bar when he was 15 or 16 years old. “Straight into the fire, man,” he says. “I was helping out at first, but I started pulling shifts on my own when I was maybe 16.”
Third, he’s an accomplished musician.
“I’ve been playing in bands since I was 14,” Mac Thiarnáin says. “I used to play drums with Ray Coleman. He was the singer. He and I used to play in bands with my two cousins, and we played in the student bar in Belfast, The Hatfield. We used to play there on a Wednesday night. Then he moved here (Philadelphia). I was at university in Belfast at the time, and I learned guitar. Then I formed a band with a friend of mine and three young girls. We had fiddle, tin whistle, guitar and bodhrán. We used to back some of the bigger bands at home. We played the student bars.”
They start them young in Ireland.
Aisling Cullen, a bartender at Con Murphy’s on the Parkway, started working in a friend’s bar back in Bailieborough, County Cavan, at age 15. At 18, she moved up to bartender and, one way or another, in Ireland or here in the States, Cullen has been pouring Guinnesses ever since.
“I got to learn the ropes from everywhere,” she says. Cullen has been in the U.S. for 12 years, working first at the New Deck Tavern in University City, and then moving on to Con Murphy’s.
We caught up with her recently and chatted with her about her life behind the bar.
Patrons of Moriarty’s in Center City can thank their lucky stars that Jennifer Richart Michaels found the 9-to-5 grind so restrictive.
“I tried working in an office, and it was horrifying every minute for me. I did it for two years and I couldn’t wait to get out of it,” she says. “I felt like I was locked in a cage. Every minute, every day. I would get up in the morning and I would think of 20 reasons not to go in. I would make the turn into the parking lot and it felt like somebody had hit me with a two-by-four.”
For the last 15 years, she’s been the day bartender at Moriarty’s, 1116 Walnut Street. Before that, she tended bar at Havana and the Logan Inn in New Hope—she’s from that area—before deciding to give Center City a try. Michaels had been working at a bar that closed when they expanded the Convention Center. That’s when she applied at Moriarty’s.
Hanrahan’s bartender Bobby Callan has lived in the Drexel Hill area all of his 30 years. He has a house in Clifton Heights now, but he grew up three blocks from this bustling Irish bar on Burmont Road, catty-corner from the Aronimink Avenue SEPTA station.
Callan got into the bar business a few years ago when one of his best friends suggested that he join him in working at a dive bar. “He said to me, ‘This is easy. It’s great. You get to meet new people.” He took to bartending, but after a while he tired of the dive bar scene. Fortuitously, he played on a local softball team, and a Hanrahan’s employee who was on the team recruited him.
You want to go where everybody knows your name. True. But McGillin’s bartender Tammy Rhodes got to know one patron so well, that she took his name.
Tammy met her future husband, construction worker Dusty Rhodes, in the bar about 17 years ago.
“He was a regular on the floor,” Tammy recalls, “but I got him to come up to the bar. He always sat at a table. One of his friends always used to mess around with me, joking, and one day he said to him, you should get her away from her boyfriend. He’s mean to her. Once he came up to the bar, we started talking.”
They haven’t stopped talking since. Three years ago, they were married at City Hall. “January was actually our third anniversary,” Tammy says. “We got married right around the corner, and after that we came back to McGillin’s. When we walked in, my bosses had given all my customers champagne. They were all cheering us. It was really nice.”
It’s not too surprising that Michael Higgins is a bartender at one of Philadelphia’s favorite Irish pubs.
“My family owned a pub in Galway for probably seven years,” he says, “and the first time I poured a pint of any kind was the night we opened. That’s how I was thrust into the pub world, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
After the pub sold, he moved to the United States. He’s been at Tir na nÓg for 10 years.
We caught up with him recently and asked him a few questions about his life behind the bar.
Mary Frances Fogg (a/k/a Frassee) tends bar at Paddy Whacks Irish Sports Pub, tucked away in a shopping center at Roosevelt Boulevard and Welsh Road in Northeast Philadelphia. She’s pretty much a fixture there at one of the best-known Irish pubs in the city, and she’s one of the most welcoming bartenders you’ll ever want to meet. She has a loyal clientele, and with her welcoming smile and gift for easy conversation, it’s easy to see why.
Frassee is also a member of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Observance Association executive committee and a 2015 Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame honoree. It would be hard to think of anyone better known in the Philadelphia Irish community. When she’s not expertly pouring pint glasses of Guinness at Paddy Whacks, she also has a day job: director of Government Relations and Special Projects at the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.
We recently asked her a few questions about that bartending gig. Here’s what she had to say.
We met up with JohnJoe Devlin, pretty much a fixture at Plough & Stars, a busy, well-known gastropub on Second Street between Market and Chestnut in Old City Philadelphia. If you’re looking for a friendly face and a charming accent behind the bar—he’s from Scotland but from Irish stock, he says—Devlin fits that description to a T.
We asked him a few questions about his day-to-day. Here’s what he had to say.