Iconic Baltimore Beverages

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From the highbrow California reds and Kentucky straight bourbons, to the low brow New Jersey Jaeger Bombs and the Minnesota “Beertinis” (yes that is crap beer with green olives), along with Alaska’s “Duckfarts” (Kahlua, Bailey’s, and Canadian Whiskey) and Arizona’s fuchsia Prickly Pear Margaritas, every state has its own quintessential beverage of choice. What is Baltimore’s classic drink? Well, we have three.

Iconic Baltimore beverages: Crabby Bloody Mary, Orange Crush, and Preakness Black-Eyed Susan
Baltimore’s Iconic Beverages

Why?  Because our awesomeness cannot be defined by just one. Seriously though, it is hard to pick between the Orange Crush and the Crabby Bloody Mary as our drink du jour. Add in the Preakness’ infamous Black-Eyed Susan and just choosing one becomes a serious dilemma. Below are some fun facts about our trio of beverages. Visitors to Baltimore should definitely try all three. You can decide your favorite.

The Orange Crush

This refreshing summer concoction got its start at West Ocean City’s Harborside Bar & Grill sometime in the last century and has been going strong ever since.  You have a couple of options for making this unpretentious cocktail and can choose from the following:

  • Flavored or unflavored vodka;
  • Triple sec or other orange liquor;
  • Crushed, cubed, or pellet ice; and
  • Club soda or a lemon lime fizz.
Orange Crush ingredients - an orange and Grand Mariner
The Orange Crush needs crushed oranges!

The one thing, however, that must be included for it to be call a real Orange Crush is a crushed orange. Not a squeezed orange. Not orange juice. But the juice of an orange crushed flatter than a pancake by one of those nifty crusher gadgets.  These gadgets run the gambit from about $40 to $200 on Amazon so if you want to go authentic and you have the budget, I encourage you to go for it.  In any event, most bars and restaurants throughout Maryland have the Orange Crush as a standard cocktail. So if you cannot make it properly at home, head out to your favorite drinking establishment.

You can also find them in a bunch of places throughout the mid-Atlantic region, but I would treat these like so-called Maryland crab cakes sold outside of the state, it just will not be the same. To get this classic Baltimore beverage, you must visit Baltimore. The basic formula for an orange crush is 3oz of orange vodka, 3oz of crushed orange juice, 1oz of orange liquor, and a dash of club soda poured over ice.

The Crabby Bloody Mary: A Classic Baltimore Drink

The second in Baltimore’s Iconic Beverages list is our take on the hangover standard, the Bloody Mary. Bartender Fernand Petiot “invented” the drink in 1921 while working at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, France. As the story goes, the original was simply tomato juice and vodka. The patron who ordered it likened the look to his girlfriend Mary who was part of a cabaret show called Bucket of Blood. So, “Bloody Mary?” A compliment? 

Crabby Bloody Mary ingredients - celery and spicy V-8
Celery and tomato juice are required for a Crabby Bloody Mary

Over the years, this simple start has grown ever more complicated, especially as it relates to just what is or is not included in the tomato juice. Apparently, the various adaptations drove Bloody Mary lovers Herb & Sue Taylor to create Mr. & Mrs. T’s Bloody Mary mix just to get some standardization.  I like the T’s concoction, but I prefer V8’s hot and spicy tomato juice because I get TWO full servings of vegetables out of the deal. The celery stalk was a 1970 accident by a bartender at Chicago’s Pump Room who was reaching for a straw and grabbed a stalk by mistake. Somehow this went viral and there you go.

Of course, we in Maryland just had to make an improvement which is why we rim ours with Old Bay. For more on why, check out Old Bay is Baltimore’s Favorite Spice for Everything. To make the perfect Crabby Blood Mary, rim a pint glass with Old Bay, add ice, Bloody Mary mix, and vodka as desired and throw in a stalk of celery. If you really want to impress your friends grab a bamboo skewer or two and go crazy topping it with steamed shrimp, crab stuffed pepperoncini, or anything else your creativity conjures. If you are asking, “What classic drink should visitors to Baltimore try?,” this is the one.

The Black-Eyed Susan

Named after Maryland’s state flower, the Black-Eyed Susan is Maryland’s version of the Kentucky Derby’s Mint Julep. It is the best known of Baltimore’s iconic beverages outside of the state. This is a drink created in 1975 solely for the Preakness. The impetus? The Preakness organizers needed a marketing hook. For those unfamiliar with the Preakness, it is the second leg of the 3-horse races that make up the Triple Crown.

Lost Ark Distilling's Lady Anne and Sagamore Spirit's Rye - ingredients in the Black-Eyed Susan.
Lady Anne White Rum and Sagamore Spirit Rye both make excellent Black-Eyed Susans

Outside of Preakness week in May, Baltimoreans generally do not drink the Black-Eyed Susan. As a marketing tactic. the ingredients change just about every year. In other words, it is a one and done. Depending on what is on fleek in a given year, the drink contains whiskey, rum, or vodka. It usually has pineapple juice and sometimes another juice like orange or lemon. The Baltimore Sun published an interesting history of the drink in 2014. The article includes a couple of different recipe options.

If you choose rum, I recommend Maryland’s own Lost Ark Distilling’s Lady Anne  White. Its namesake is Lady Anne Arundel, the wealthy wife of the 2nd Barron of Baltimore whose family money helped the Barron buy the Maryland charter. Anne Arundel County was named after her too.

For those who prefer whiskey, grab a bottle of Sagamore Spirit Rye. This Maryland distillery is the brainchild of Under Armour’s founder Kevin Plank. The water used in the distilling process comes from his 630-acre horse farm in Baltimore County. The farm, called Sagamore, was once owned by a Vanderbilt. It was also the home of Native Dancer a famous racehorse who won 21 of 22 races in his career.

The recipes can be downloaded for free here.

Visiting Baltimore and need more ideas? Help is a click way.

By Carolyn

Carolyn is a seasoned traveler who finds amazing things to explore wherever she goes. Carolyn has explored all 50 states in the U.S. and has traveled widely throughout Canada and Europe, including Iceland. For over 15 years, Carolyn has been helping people make the most of their get-a-ways by personalizing their travel adventures. She believes "tailored to you" is the only way to make the most of your next adventure.

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