At Baltimore bars, spiked slushies help beat the heat

At Baltimore bars, spiked slushies help beat the heat
The Mountain Dude slushie at Stalking Horse in Federal Hill. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

Come summertime, Baltimore is a city of snowball stands. So it's only natural that, as temperatures rise, Baltimore bars cool down their customers with spiked slushies.

If you don't have much of a sweet tooth, a frosty Boh will do the trick. But the rest of us love to indulge our inner-child with these frozen drinks.

The icy treats — which first featured common flavors such as cherry and lemon — have been revamped recently, thanks in part to the increasingly popular trend of flavored vodkas. I tried slushies at three popular city hangouts. Beware of the brain freeze — seriously, it was a nostalgic pain that belongs in the past — and let's cool off.

Dogwatch Tavern
709 S. Broadway, Fells Point

Formerly the dingy dance club Reefer's, Dogwatch Tavern feels like Fells Point's version of Dave & Buster's, with its pinball machine, skeeball, free pool table and leather couches.

On a recent Thursday night, 30 or 40 people watched the Miami Heat win its second NBA title. Most of the crowd enjoyed 116-ounce beer towers ($20) at high-top tables, but I ordered the Creamsicle slushie ($6), which was served to the brim of a pint glass.

I didn't see anyone else drinking the reasonably priced slushies, and after finishing mine, it made sense: the Creamsicle slushie, made with Pinnacle whipped cream vodka, cream and orange juice, tasted true to its name at first, but each subsequent sip got worse.

As is the problem with most slushies, the dark orange drink was sweet enough to induce a stomachache, and, even worse, it was weak. As it melted down, unappetizing white specks of cream floated to the top, leaving no chance of finishing the drink.

The only other flavor, Mountain Dude — a combination of Mountain Dew and Dude Three Olives Vodka — was better, but still too sweet to finish.

Dogwatch is a great place to watch a game. The laidback atmosphere (an older female patron rollerbladed around the bar and no one blinked) felt appropriate to its "man cave" aura, but the slushie did not enhance the experience. Our bartender, a man whose demeanor matched the temperature of my frozen drink, didn't help matters either.

Stalking Horse
26 E. Cross St. Federal Hill

As one of the most crowded weekend spots in Federal Hill, Stalking Horse often brings out the bros and general sloppiness long associated with the party-friendly neighborhood. There are women, too, and on a recent Saturday night, many carried around slushies. The multi-level bar has slushie machines on each floor, making the frozen concoctions a hot commodity on weekends.

The Mountain Dude slushie ($4.50) — a mix of Mountain Dew, Sprite and Dude Three Olives Vodka — was less sweet than Dogwatch's and benefitted from its smaller serving size.

Stalking Horse serves its slushies in plastic cups, about half the size of a pint glass. No matter your tolerance for sweets, the Horse's version is like a fun-size Halloween candy bar, the perfect amount to satisfy a craving.

The Horse had the best selection of slushies, too, among them a Ravens grape and a pink Hurricane flavor I saw many girls drinking. Best of all, the slushie had enough of an edge in its small package to make the fratty spillover from the Orioles game tolerable ... for a bit.

Luckie's Tavern
10 Market Place, Power Plant Live

My slushie experience progressively improved with each stop, culminating in a trip to Luckie's Tavern in Power Plant Live.

Typically crowded on weekend nights as only a bar in Power Plant Live can be, my Sunday afternoon trip was relaxing, and the American Hero slushie ($8) — a patriotic mix of frozen strawberry, pina colada and blue raspberry and Castillo silver rum — was the perfect complement, even if the pina colada machine was down when I visited. My bartender was the most accommodating out of the three bars, as she replaced the slushie's missing "white" component with a Coconut Jack rum floater on the side, free of charge.

Served in pint glasses, Luckie's slushies were the most balanced. I never winced from a sugar rush. Luckie's also boasted the most appetizing selection, including a classic strawberry flavor called Tiger's Blood (someone must've enjoyed Charlie Sheen's escapades) and a Chinese Goose Berry (both $8), a mix of kiwifruit, watermelon and banana. The one I'd get again was the deliciously smooth Georgia Peach Tree ($10), which included a Smirnoff peach floater as an extra kick.

Dogwatch Tavern offered the best atmosphere and Stalking Horse boasted the widest selection of flavors, but in terms of pure slushie enjoyment, Luckie's Tavern was king.