There is nothing more welcome on a hot day than an icy beer. Unless it’s a crushed-ice cocktail—or maybe a crisp sparkling wine. Frosé anyone? Baltimore has them all. When the temperature goes up, according to Baltimore barkeeps, the drinks become more fun.
(Explore more summer beverages around town and get great discounts with the Baltimore Beverage Passport)
Crushing on Crushes
Purported to be invented in Ocean City, an Orange Crush is pulverized juice, vodka, a splash of triple sec and Sprite over crushed ice. The name actually refers to the state of the fruit though the small shards of ice are a key to the cool quotient.
These days, crushes come in all flavors – like the sour watermelon or lemonade drinks at Mother’s Bar and Grille in Federal Hill (1113 S. Charles). “There’s something about that crushed ice and fresh squeezed juice that makes drinks so refreshing and summery,” says manager Jorgen Eliason, who uses machine-crushed ice for the cold concoctions.
Loch Bar in Harbor East (240 International Dr.) has a menu of crushes – try the Aunt Mel’s, named for owner Alex Smith’s family recipe, with Maker’s 46, ginger liqueur and iced tea, or the Lime-Aid, made with kaffir lime vodka, crème de peche and lemon. While you’re in summer mode, how about one of Loch Bar’s oyster shooters, perhaps the briny bivalve dressed in raspberry puree floating in a champagne pool?
While some bars love their crushes, others churn out libations from slushy machines. These adult beverages are sweet and go down easily; beware of brain freeze!
When things heat up, Doug Atwell, bar manager at Blue Pit BBQ in Hampden/Woodberry (1601 Union Ave., bluepitbbq.com) runs two imported Italian slushie machines at a time, with such concoctions as a pink drink made with rosé, tequila and strawberry syrup; and a frozen Pim’s Cup (with Pim’s, strawberry and cucumber-infused vodka). Well behaved dogs at Blue Pit get their own refreshing drinks ¬– from bowls of cold water on the restaurant’s twinkly communal deck.
Frozen Rosé has gone viral since Baltimore’s own Bill Irvin branded the Frosé he first made at La Folie Wine Bar on Canton Square (2903 O'Donnell St., bistrolafolie.com), and also sells at Dockbar at the Boathouse (2809 Boston St). Irvin initially tried to freeze Rosé in ice cube trays, he says, “but it splashed all over the inside of my freezer.” In addition to Frosé (wine, strawberry puree, lemon juice), Irvin has dibs on Froblanc, fruity white Reisling with peach puree.
Easy Summer Wines
In hot weather, many wine drinkers turn to whites and rosés (dedicated red heads may choose to lighten things up with so-called thin-skinned varietals – Pinot Noir, Grenache, Sangiovese and the like, sometimes chilled to around 55-60 degrees Farenheit.)
Instead of gilding the grape with syrups, fruit and chipped ice, Cosima (3000 Falls Rd.) serves straight-up summery wines inspired by the restaurant’s roots in Sicily. Southern Italians, points out Alan Hirsh, general manager, “know what to drink when it’s hot.” Regaleali rosé, from a producer in Mt. Etna and a sparkler made from the Nerello Mascalese grape are both popular pours. The restaurant does make a concession to wine-as-mixer with Proseco, combined with bitter Aperol for a refreshing spritz, or with gin, Amaro, rhubarb and grapefruit juice in the refreshing Citta Vuotta (the name means “empty city”).
Most popular summer wines have a lower alcohol content and less sugar, says Chris Spann, owner of the Wine Market Bistro in Locust Point (921 E Fort Ave.) so tend to not weigh you down. He points to Vinho Verde, a Portuguese wine with bright minerality and slight effervescence, and Txakoli from the Basque region.
Like their grape-loving counterparts, beer drinkers tend to lighten things up in the summer. Lighter pilsners and ales, some with added citrus or tropical fruits, and session (lower alcohol) IPAs, are all cool options. Try adding some sparkle with a beer-based champagne cocktail.
While he doesn’t think all summer beer needs to be light and fruity, Casey Hard, manager at Max’s Taphouse in Fell’s Point (737 S. Broadway) leaves the dark porters and stouts for cooler months. Hefeweisens, with their mellow wheat flavor and slight cloudy appearance, are refreshing on their own or mixed with vodka for a summery cocktail. Leinenkugel's Beer Garden (4 Market Place) in Power Plant Live is a top spot for enjoying wheat beers or a summer shandy.
Owner and brewmaster Ian Hummel at Mount Vernon’s Brew House 16 (831 N. Calvert) turns to sour beers in the summer, sometimes balancing the acidity with fruit, like the local strawberries he recently added to a wheat brew. While a higher alcohol content will warm you up in the winter, says Hummel, “in summer anything around 5 percent (alcohol by volume) is just right.”
The Union Tap Room (1700 Union Ave.) offers cold ones to drink in or take out (from the growler station), and nearby Birroteca (1520 Clipper Rd.) pours craft beer – and bottled mules – to go with its seasonal artisan pizza. Birroteca’s sibling, Nickel Taphouse in Mt. Washington (1604 Kelly Ave.), features craft brews from Baltimore’s own Key Brewing Co. Try the Gray’s Papaya, described on the menu as “a milkshake IPA with a milky golden haze and pleasant tropical fruit aromas.” Sounds like the perfect summer drink.
Take it Outside
A favorite at Harbor East’s Wit and Wisdom, which brands its patio “Wit on the Water” in summer months (200 International Dr.), is the Blackberry Bramble with gin, lemon and blackberry-based crème de mure. Wit on the Water is just one of Baltimore’s many options when it comes to summer sipping with a harbor view.
The new Sandlot at Harbor Point (1000 Wills St.), a manufactured beach from the folks behind Woodberry Kitchen, serves up slushies and ice cold beer on tap, alongside its bocce courts and volley ball nets. Nearby, the bustling Barcocina (1639 Thames St.) has open air seating and offers seasonal cocktails, craft beer and an extensive menu of tequila (with a fixed price “open bar” option for folks who want to hang a while.)
If you’re looking for a more elevated experience, LB Skybar at the Lord Baltimore Hotel (20 W. Baltimore St.) is a sophisticated place to sip a watermelon mojito or a happy hour margarita and watch the sun set. Likewise Encantada, atop the American Visionary Arts Museum, at the foot of Federal Hill, has a lovely outdoor terrace and an inventive cocktail menu to match its plant-based menu.
Cosima’s secluded patio, with its cobblestoned entry and view of the Jones Falls, is transporting – honestly, you could be in a walled Italian village. Gunther & Co. (3650 Toone St.) has its own hidden gem out back, with a living wall, trickling waterfalls and a cocktail list with such erudite options as King of Hard Style (Shochu, celery bitters, tonic) and Kate Bishop is Bae (poblano-infused mescal, cream sherry and passion fruit). The diminutive bar at Magdalena at the Ivy Hotel (205 E Biddle St.) opens into a lovely hidden garden in the hotel’s courtyard.
In the summer with longer daylight hours and more relaxed schedules, we itch to get out of the house, enjoy the company of others and savor something cool and fresh. Baltimore’s thirst-quenching summer drinks will help you with all three.