Baltimore’s Distilleries and Speakeasies
Be a part of Baltimore's rye whiskey revival with a visit to one of our local distilleries, or swirl a glass at the latest speakeasies in town.
Maryland was once a whiskey distilling powerhouse in the United States, surpassed only by Kentucky and Pennsylvania. During its peak in 1911—just before Prohibition—there were 44 distilleries, half of which were in Baltimore.
In 1919 Maryland coined the nickname of “The Free State” when it refused to join the rest of the nation in imposing strict alcohol restrictions during Prohibition. But after World War II, production slowed and the last Maryland-based distillery closed its doors in 1972.
Today a new generation of distillers are working hard to reclaim this tradition by producing the state’s signature rye whiskey, described as a more refined alternative to bourbon.
Learn how to experience some of the best of what Baltimore has to offer with our round up of distilleries and speakeasies. Or, start exploring with the Whiskey Rebellion Trail pass.
Distilleries & Tours
Baltimore Spirits Co.
Baltimore Spirits Company’s inventory runs the gamut from amari to gin, and, of course, rye whiskey. Stop by their distillery in Hampden’s Union Collective for a Blend-Your-Own-Whiskey Tour, a 90-minute experience that details America’s distilling history, gives a full behind-the-scenes view of the distillery and barrel warehouse, and provides four free samples and the opportunity to create your own blend of whiskey. After the tour, enjoy a drink in the modern and lively Cocktail Gallery featuring rotating art exhibits.
Old Line Spirits
Old Line Spirits was started by two Navy buddies who left corporate jobs looking to create something of their own. They reconnected as neighbors in Baltimore, and in 2017, Arch Watkins and Mark McLaughlin launched their whiskey and rum distillery, Old Line Spirits, in Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood. Take a tour of the facilities, enjoy a tasting and end with a cocktail at the in-house bar, The Ready Room, named for the room where naval aviators gather to plan missions, swap stories and hang out.
Sagamore Spirit Distillery
Founded in 2017 by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, Sagamore Spirit Distillery is located on the up-and-coming Port Covington waterfront neighborhood, the first step in a multi-year redevelopment plan for the area. A ticket to the distillery comes complete with an hour-long guided tour and tasting. The distillery also hosts social events like cocktail-making classes, yoga and Whiskey on the Waterfront, an outdoor summer concert series. Wrap up your visit with a delicious stop at Rye Street Tavern, located adjacent to the distillery.
Whiskey Rebellion Trail
The Whiskey Rebellion Trail helps you explore the whiskey history and craft distilleries of different regions. Take advantage of the Baltimore Daytripper Passport to get access to tours, deals and tastings at four local distilleries: Baltimore Spirits Company, Old Line Spirits, Sagamore Spirit and Tenth Ward Distilling Company.
Whiskey Bars & Speakeasies
During Prohibition, thirsty customers traveled long and far to buy spirits from local bootleggers and to wet their whistle at iconic Baltimore haunts like The Owl Bar and The Horse You Came in on Saloon, which are still open today. Get a taste for that adventurous era at one of the speakeasy-style bars tucked around the city.
The Owl Bar
The Owl Bar, a Prohibition-Era speakeasy, is now an antique bar at the landmark Belvedere Hotel. During the 1900’s, bar patrons relied on the eyes of two ornamental owls to know whether it was safe to drink without the worry of police raids. Today, guests are greeted by one of the original faux owls, as well as a piece of stained glass decor embedded with a rhyming couplet that gives a nod to the bar’s heritage: “A wise old owl sat on an oak / the more he saw the less he spoke / The less he spoke the more he heard / why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?”
The Horse You Came in On
Dating back to 1775, The Horse You Came in On Saloon hearkens back to the days when Fell’s Point was best known as a destination for sailors and pirates looking for the three B’s—bars, brothels and boarding houses. It’s not only Baltimore’s oldest pub, but it’s also where Edgar Allan Poe is rumored to have had his last drink before his mysterious death. Stop by this historic neighborhood watering hole for a casual drink or enjoy live music with locals.
The Elk Room
You may have to hunt for the entrance, but The Elk Room is well worth the effort. Known for its handcrafted cocktails, small plates and large whiskey menu, this moody haunt is a sophisticated start to a night on the town. Named by Esquire magazine one of the best bars in the country, you’re guaranteed a memorable drink in style.
Bluebird Cocktail Room
Named after a Charles Bukowski poem, the Bluebird Cocktail Room in Hampden features long communal tables and literary-themed cocktails, in the spirit of Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf. Enjoy a mix of original dishes like spicy peanuts alongside European bistro fare. And stop by the downstairs pub which features a well-curated global whiskey collection.
Baltimore has a rich literary history, having hosted illustrious writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, and is still home to a vibrant bookish community; learn more here.
Rye, a craft cocktail bar in Fell’s Point, was one of the bars that led Baltimore’s craft cocktail movement. Its Prohibition-era design elements and reasonably-priced whiskey cocktails make it an equally perfect spot for a sophisticated night out or a casual happy hour stop.
The name says it all: Wet City, a local bar, restaurant and brewery, celebrates Baltimore’s rebellion against federal alcohol restrictions during Prohibition. It primarily serves its own house-brewed beer and snacks, while sharing the bar with a variety of other local brews.
Part of the intrigue of this 1920s style bar comes from its intentionally low-key profile. You’ll find little information online about W.C. Harlan, except that the owner, Lane Harlan, is the creative force behind both the nearby Clavel, a Mexican-inspired eatery, and Fadensonnen, a biergarten and natural wine bar. Mystique aside, the cozy nostalgic watering hole serves exquisite cocktails in an ambience you won’t soon forget.