LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — In the 1800s, it was a farmer’s market. In 2023, Lancaster’s Southern Market has turned into much more.
The market reopened in 2022 as a hub for up-and-coming chefs after going through significant renovations. It now features a dozen restaurants, and at the center of the space is Bar 88, where a Lancaster native is making his mark.
Crafting the perfect cocktail is what Rob Mauer does best.
“I’m just making a classic mojito, so just a little clear rum,” he explains as he mixes one of the more popular summer drinks. “Just stir it up so the mint doesn’t get so bitter and crushed up, and then we just add a little club soda.”
Mauer has been a bartender for seven years. He has spent the last two inside Lancaster’s Southern Market at Bar 1888.
“What this market offers is diversity and unique, fresh takes on things like food and cocktails and beverage,” he said.
Mauer has had his eye on bartending since he was 16 and started working in restaurants.
“It’s a chance to express yourself artistically and there’s a lot of different flavors and always something new to learn,” he said.
When Southern Market reopened in 2022 as a hub for local chefs, Mauer was the first bartender hired. He says Bar 1888 is unique because it is not responsible for food, the way most stand-alone bars are.
“What that allows you to do is spend your time coming up with new and creative ideas in just the beverage scene,” he said.
With that extra time and creativity, Bar 1888 does not just make classic cocktails. The bar has an evolving menu of drinks the staff invents.
“I did a tropical cocktail that featured a lot of rum, and we did a flaming bowl, which is a fire that turns essentially into a fireball and you do that right in front of the customer and they see this huge explosion in front of their face,” Mauer said of one of his favorite cocktails.
And in a place that can fit 300 people an hour, it is the connection with the community Mauer values most.
“The small thing that you do on a day-to-day is give people a place to relax and enjoy their time with their friends and their family,” he said. “We just hope people are experiencing…something that speaks to us and something that we would want to have personally as a beverage, and we hope that people enjoy as much as we do.”
The market is open Wednesday through Sunday and like Bar 1888, many of the restaurant menus change seasonally, so there is always something new to try.