History—and Drink Recipes—Refreshed: Enjoy Craft Cocktails and a Step Back in Time at Beautifully Renovated The Republic at The Gamble Mill – Statecollege.com

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It sure had been a while since I stepped into the old Gamble Mill in Bellefonte and sat down for a drink, but as soon as I walked inside to meet with The Republic owner Megan Marcaurelle-Jones, it felt immediately familiar and wonderfully reimagined at the same time.
Megan and her husband, Cody Jones, opened the first-floor bar area this past August in the revitalized historic building after their friends and Gamble Mill owners Jonathan and Christopher Virgilio completely renovated the space they purchased in 2019. The Republic is just one of the offerings at The Gamble Mill, which also includes a restaurant (Creekside), store (Smith and Front), event space (The Speakeasy), and boutique inn and suites.
It is safe to say they nailed the renovations. The whole building looks amazing, with modern touches that highlight the history of the building, and the cozy barroom of The Republic is a perfect example of that. Soft lighting provides an intimate atmosphere around the old bar that has been refurbished. Giant brick pillars and exposed wooden beams provide the atmosphere of a quaint tavern of yesteryear, while the redone furnishings and trim work give the space a cool, modern aesthetic.
Those old stone pillars used to serve as load bearers for the mill work that the building was used for years ago. They no longer serve that purpose, but Megan and Cody decided to keep them in place during the renovations to help keep the historic atmosphere of the building.  
“These are probably my favorite part. I love that it creates a little bit of intimacy and a little bit of privacy. So, even though it’s a small place, it makes it intimate. You can have private conversation,” says Megan. 
It does feels like the perfect place to sit and talk with a few friends or a date over a classic cocktail, and that is exactly what The Republic serves up best. Looking to add something new to the already thriving craft beverage scene in Bellefonte, Megan and her team serve up carefully crafted cocktails that focus on “simplicity and getting back to the origins” of the drinks.  
“Our main priority is to be consistent in our drinks so that they come out the same every time,” says Megan. “We also played around with some egg white cocktails, which I think is super fun; it just gives it a nice mouth feel. That is a very 1920s style of cocktail.”
Both the Bella Donna—gin, campari, fresh lemon juice, triple sec, and pasteurized egg white—and the Fauntleroy—bourbon, elderflower liqueur, rosemary, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, pasteurized egg white, and a sprinkle of nutmeg—are examples of this technique on the menu. 
She says other crowd-pleasing drinks, like the Anne Marie—made with ​gin, elderflower liqueur, fresh lemon juice, butterfly pea powder, simple syrup, sparkling water, and prosecco—“are a little more on the sweeter side. It appeals to the crowd that like that sort of thing, but it is still crafted well. You know we are making everything by hand. We are pressing all of our juices; we are doing all that to make it special.”
With seven craft cocktails on the menu and a weekly special feature, there is always something fun and new to try.
Megan’s favorite drink on the menu is the traditional old-fashioned, saying, “It is classic; it is good every time. I am also a big dirty martini fan, and we make a bunch of those around here, too.”
Those who are looking for something not on the craft cocktail list ought not fret. Megan says bartenders will be glad to mix you up any drink you want as long as they have the ingredients. A selection of wines is available as well, and beer from Braddock-based Brew Gentlemen is on tap, rounding out the offerings.
After years of working in the service industry in Altoona, Megan moved with Cody to Bellefonte to open The Republic. She says the community has been very welcoming as they got established.
“I think that we fit in in the way that we’re very different from anything else around here, but that’s great because we can complement other places. I don’t view it as a competition; it is complementing other businesses. I want to be able to send people down the road to different spots and be like, ‘Oh, that’s my favorite drink down there. You need to stop by and see them,’” says Megan. “That’s really what we want to foster around here, that we were just joining an already thriving community.”
Megan’s team got right into the swing of things this fall, opening during the busy football season, and the customer base has been growing ever since. From travelers stopping on the way through town or staying in the suites upstairs, to those who used to frequent the old Gamble Mill years ago, word of mouth has been growing. 
She says at least a couple of times a week someone stops into the bar with a look of amazement and says, “I haven’t been back for 20 years. This used to be my bar seat over here. I used to sit here every Thursday night.”
With that nostalgia comes expectations, but Megan says, “You know, I think that people do walk in and they appreciate what we’ve done with it. You know, a lot of people say like, ‘Oh, good, they didn’t change this too much, this still has the feel that it did before. It’s just updated.’ So, we’ve gotten really good responses from people that way.”
Looking toward the future, Megan says they hope to bring in more live music and continue to partner with the The Speakeasy for events. For Valentine’s Day weekend, The Gamble Mill offered packages for couples looking for a romantic getaway by offering a cocktail class, massage class, and promotional pricing on meals at Creekside and drinks at The Republic for those staying in the suites upstairs.
When warmer weather returns, the outdoor patio space in front of the building will again be open for those looking to enjoy a drink with a view of Victorian Bellefonte and Spring Creek. Inside, the history remains alive, and Megan and Cody are making some history of their own in that old bar that many remember so well. 
Town&Gown staff writer Vincent Corso enjoys drinking local and meeting new people at central Pennsylvania’s many interesting establishments. This column appeared in the February 2022 issue of Town&Gown.
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