On The Town

Baltimore Cocktail Week Aims to Get Back to the Roots of Hospitality

Weeklong festival returns with focus on reconnecting guests with bartenders.

When service industry veteran Ginny Lawhorn sits down to plan Baltimore Cocktail Week every year, she always has an underlying theme in mind. 

This time around, considering the growing popularity of on-demand dining apps like OrderUp and UberEats, her goal was to plan events centered around restoring the relationship between diners and servers.

“We’re in this age where people are incredibly busy and desire to have things brought to them,” says Lawhorn, who heads up the bar program at Landmark Theatres and co-owns Sticky Rice in Fells Point. “This dilutes engagement in the services being provided to us. It’s all about finding ways to entice guests to come out when it’s easier to stay in.”

To delve further into this concept, Lawhorn has crafted a lineup of events ranging from forums and master classes to concerts and cocktail contests in conjunction with the third annual Baltimore Cocktail Week—an initiative that spotlights accomplishments in the local service industry and, this year, runs April 23-30.

“In Baltimore especially, we have such an incredible network of hospitality members supporting their communities,” says Lawhorn who organized the inaugural festival in 2015. “It’s an opportunity for consumers to see their service providers in a different capacity, rather than singularly across the bar.”

The festivities will kick off with a “Spring Fling” cocktail competition hosted by Rodney Henry of Dangerously Delicious Pies at R. House on Sunday, April 23.  Twelve participating bartenders representing spots all over the city —including Argosy Cafe, Encantada, Gunther & Co., and Verde—will go head-to-head to craft sips inspired by the season. If you can’t make it to the event, all of the participating bartenders will offer the submissions at their bars throughout the week.

“The events all focus on what makes you enjoy your time out,” Lawhorn says. “Moving the launch party to R. Bar—a new, shared gathering space—was a big part of that.”

Other highlights throughout the week include a multi-course dinner exploring the relationship between scotch and sherry at Tapas Teatro on April 24, a restorative yoga session followed by light fare and prosecco at YogaWorks Midtown on April 29, “Brunch Drunk Love” featuring movie-inspired mid-morning cocktails like the Clueless Campari spritzer and Breakfast Club crush at Pen & Quill on April 30, and “My Bartender is in a Band”—a special Planned Parenthood benefit show at the Windup Space featuring local bartenders who are also musicians.

“It’s exciting to provide a night where bartenders get to be in a band first,” Lawhorn says of the concert, which is being produced by Friends Records and feature local rockers Gateway to Hell, Black Lung, and Sweepstakes. “It’s certainly a challenge, but there are an incredible number of people who manage both passions.”

Admission to all of the events range from $10-45 and, in keeping with the week’s theme of caring for others, many of the festivities have a philanthropic focus. Aside from the Planned Parenthood show, all of the proceeds from the yoga fundraiser will benefit House of Ruth Maryland, and the winner of the kickoff competition will receive a $250 donation to the nonprofit of their choice.

“When the community is in need, bars and restaurants show up,” Lawhorn says, mentioning industry fundraisers planned in the wake of the Ellicott City devastation last summer. “My main goal is that consumers leave these events more educated and interested. And that they really enjoy their time out in an era where setting your phone down can be very difficult.”