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Great Baltimore cocktails: The Kentucky Navy at The Tavern Room

Drinking makes you smarter -- at least, that's the case at Harbor East's The Tavern Room.

In name and style, this newly opened front division of Fleet Street Kitchen portrays a laid-back sense of refinement that's a nod to both classic American culture and a more modern sense of merriment. The cocktail program mirrors this historical feel with a unique feature: three seasonal punches, served for two or four in Mason jars, poured and garnished tableside.

Head bartender Tim Riley sees his cocktail program as a way to highlight the punch-making craft the restaurant wants to be known for. The Kentucky Navy, my favorite, is a rich, spicy, springtime sip.

There are several things that Riley feels form the core of what a punch really is — elements you'll find in all of The Tavern Room's recipes. Originally, punches were about what taverns had on hand each day. Mainly, punches are defined by oleo-saccharum, a base rendered from rubbing sugar loaf on citrus (usually lemon) peels to extract the oil. In addition, all punches feature a combination of several liquors that play off that base flavor. They also usually come with some sort of tea.

True to form, the Kentucky Navy is a classically oriented punch recipe that Riley crafted toward the idea of mint juleps and warmer weather. Bourbon and rye are stirred into spearmint tea, sweetened with a lemon and oleo-saccharum. Rounding out the drink are black walnut bitters and Millstone cider from Monkton, which aligns with Fleet Street Kitchen's commitment to local sourcing.

The result is layered and smooth. The herbaceous mint aids in brightening the bourbon and the spice of the rye, while the oleo-sacchrum brightens the crispness of the cider. Forget about serving mint juleps for the Kentucky Derby — this is even tastier.

Horses, however, have nothing to do with the name, another history lesson within itself. Get ready. Named after a satirical resolution introduced by Rep. Tom Burch in the Kentucky Legislature in 2002, the "Kentucky Navy" was intended to be a legion of submarines that would patrol the Ohio River to seek and destroy riverboat casinos the state was losing millions of dollars to across the state border in Ohio. Riley simply thought that was "pretty funny" and the drink was born.

Sophisticated without being too serious, The Tavern Room punches bring a sense of quirky originality without compromising on the classic art of drink making. Here, you'll be happy to let history repeat itself.

How to Make The Kentucky Navy (one serving)

1/2 part lemon oleo-saccharum

1/2 part spearmint tea

1 part Millstone cider

1 part bourbon

1 part rye

Dash of black walnut bitters

Stir all incredients together, serve chilled over 2-inch cube of ice.

Where to Get The Kentucky Navy

The Tavern Room at Fleet Street Kitchen

1012 Fleet St., Harbor East


Punch for 2/$24 or 4/$48

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