Midnight Sun Wesley Case covers the city's after-hours scene

Highlandtown's Old Line Spirits to open first full-service bar inside a city distillery in early June

Old Line Spirits thinks visiting a distillery can feel like a trip to the museum.

“Basically, you come in, you love it, you tell your friends about it,” Steve Lamb said, “and then you don’t need to come back for a year or two.”

In less than three weeks, the Highlandtown distillery located at 4201 E. Pratt St. hopes to change that perception.

On June 8, Old Line Spirits will open the city’s first full beer/wine/spirits cocktail bar attached to a distillery, said co-owner Arch Watkins and Lamb, the bar’s manager. Formerly the distillery’s tasting room, the redesigned space will be called the Ready Room Cocktail Bar, an 1,100-square-foot bar where Old Line plans to showcase its rums and whiskeys.

The goal, Lamb said, is to create a casual bar for locals to hang out, but also to explain the different uses of their products more.

“If there’s an ingredient they don’t know, we’ll get them a taste of it, and explain everything we’re doing here,” Lamb said.

To comply with state and city regulations, Old Line obtained a Class 9 Limited Distillery License, Watkins said. Late last week, the Baltimore City Liquor Board approved the other hurdle: a new Class “D” Beer, Wine and Liquor license, the first awarded to a city distillery, according to Tom Akras, deputy director of the Liquor Board.

Typically, distilleries have tasting rooms, where visitors can sample small amounts of spirits by themselves, not in cocktails. Tasting rooms do not serve beer, wine or spirits not made by the distillery.

The bar has 10 seats, but there will be enough room to comfortably fit around 65 people, Lamb said. When the bar opens, various wines will be available, along with beers by Highlandtown’s Monument City Brewing Co. and Dundalk’s Key Brewing Co., he said. It will be open 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 5 p.m.-midnight Friday; noon-midnight Saturday and closed Sunday-Tuesday.

But they hope visitors will be most interested in the 11 or so different cocktails, which will feature Old Line products like its Single Malt American Whiskey and Aged Caribbean Rum as the basis of the drinks.

Aside from boilermakers (combinations of a shot and a beer) and old fashioneds, the bar will offer cocktails with Navy-inspired names like the Ease Guns to Land (made with the Single Malt and sherry) and the Liberty Risk, a take on a zombie that will come with a restriction. (Watkins and co-owner Mark McLaughlin are former Navy fliers.)

“This cocktail, being pretty alcohol-forward, is something that can get you in trouble,” Watkins said. “So we’re limiting it to one per customer.”

The bar will feature other local spirits as well, Lamb said, so customers should not feel the need to order drinks from the menu or with an Old Line spirit in them.

The cocktail bar’s arrival comes as Old Line finishes up long-in-the-works upgrades to their production. A new 300-gallon system is approximately five-times larger than Old Line’s current system, and will allow the company to produce around 30 gallons of whiskey per day, according to Watkins.

While Old Line’s main goal is to turn more people onto their spirits, Watkins said the owners are also motivated to give visitors one more reason to hang out in Highlandtown, a neighborhood that already includes Monument City, along with bars and restaurants like Gnocco and Snake Hill.

“It’s a nice little area that we could use an upscale cocktail bar, we think,” Watkins said.

wesley.case@baltsun.com

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