On The Town

My Favorite Drinks of 2016

From cocktails and craft beer to wine and spirits, here are my picks of the year.

Steady Eddie Wheat IPA from Union Craft
There is a lot to love about this spring release from Union Craft Brewing. Not only is it named after Orioles legend Eddie Murray, but it was just what the doctor ordered after a long, blizzard-filled winter.
A seasonal offering from the Woodberry brewery, Steady Eddie brought a typically heavy IPA into a bright, lemon-filled place with Azacca and Sorachi Ace hops. The result is perfect for warm-weather drinking and even Murray himself, who came by the brewery for a visit, is a big fan.

The Sazerac from Colette
Speaking of the classics, sometimes all you need is a spirit, a sweetener, a bitter, and a rinse. There’s no better example of that than the sazerac at Colette. Bartender Crystal Wack makes her version with either the traditional cognac or regional Melvale Maryland-style Rye. Though both are delicious, I opt for cognac, which she tops with Turbinado sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, and a lemon twist in an Absinthe-rise glass. Trust me, nothing is more tasty in a dark bar on a chilly night.

Local Oyster Stout from Waverly Brewing
In a testament to teamwork, one of this year’s best local beers came from a collaboration between Waverly Brewing Company and The Local Oyster. The two teams spent a fun day brewing an oyster stout and it was everything the style should be—creamy, roasty, with slight chocolate notes and a hint of salt. Plus, it didn’t hurt that, at the beer’s release party, you could pair it with the ideal counterpart: True Chesapeake Skinny Dippers.

Chartreuse from Idle Hour
This wasn’t so much a new drink, as it was a return to an old favorite. After 18 months of being shut down and then painstakingly rebuilding, the beloved Idle Hour in Riverside reopened in June. We were so happy to walk through the sticker-covered door and listen to spinning vinyl again and, we have to say, knocking back that first shot of Chartreuse—the pine flavored liqueur we had come to know and love—felt particularly special this time around.

Brooklyn at Wet City
We’ve touted the virtues of Wet City before—the Scandinavian-style bar that replaced Dougherty’s this past summer. It’s hard to decide the bar’s best attribute: the food is as strong as the beer list is as strong as the cocktails. We’ve had amazing sours and black IPAs at this place, but what’s always consistent is co-owner Josh Sullivan’s take on a Manhattan, or, as they call it, the Brooklyn. Familiar flavors of Pikesville Rye, cola-flavored Del Capo Amaro, and dry vermouth. Simple, sweet, and hits the spot every time.

Charles Street Apple Brandy from Baltimore Whiskey Company
Rye and bourbon get a lot of play as the traditional American spirits, but the boys at Remington-based Baltimore Whiskey Company make a point that apple brandy was what the colonists were actually drinking. So this summer, they released a rendition with locally sourced apples, peels, and seeds smoked with cherry and oak, which was all aged in rye whiskey barrels. The low-proof spirit is great with a little squeeze of lime or simply on its own. (Fun fact: It even got a writeup in Playboy.)

Albariño from Old Westminster Winery
There’s a movement in Maryland wine going on. Enter Old Westminster Winery, about a hour’s drive west of the city, which produces sustainably farmed wine at an elevation of 800 feet. For blissful summer drinking, pop open a bottle of Old Westminster’s Pét-Nat Albariño, a cirtusy, sparkly white that has been getting rave reviews from national wine publications. If you can’t make the trek, look for their products at these local restaurants.

Nanticoke Nectar IPA from RaR Brewery
Another product that might involve a road trip, Nanticoke Nectar IPA comes from RaR Brewery in Cambridge. The Nanticoke Nectar is its very popular flagship beer, and for good reason. The Nectar is a West Coast-style IPA to be sure, but notes of mango and grapefruit zest make it dynamic and well-balanced. I tried to have just one can at Johnny Rad’s this year—emphasis on tried.

Sweet potato Old Fashioned from R. Bar
Not quite sure if this one’s on the menu yet, but the newly opened R. Bar inside of Remington food hall R. House is turning out some stellar cocktails including the Sweet Potato Old Fashioned. Bar manager Aaron Joseph conceived of this fall-in-a-glass concoction: bourbon, sweet potato syrup (which was honestly tasty on its own), black walnut bitters, and charred cinnamon. It’s impossible not to feel cozy sipping this inside the sleek food hall as the temperatures continue to dip outside.