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Food & Drink

Old Bay vodka will soon be for sale in Maryland liquor stores and restaurants

Who wants to drink the bay?

No, not that one. Baltimore’s signature Old Bay flavor is now bottled in a vodka made from corn and distilled in Frederick through a partnership between the spice giant McCormick & Co. and George’s Beverage Company, a purveyor of cocktail mixes based in Hanover.

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The spirit will initially only be sold through restaurants and liquor stores in Maryland and Delaware starting mid-March, said Greg David, a co-founder and owner of George’s Beverages.

He said the project was a collaboration that his team and McCormick had worked on for nearly three years. “It started in 2019. We’re so excited to see it finally hit shelves,” David said.

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In a news release, Jill Pratt, a McCormick spokeswoman, said the company knows that fans of Old Bay are passionate about the iconic seasoning blend and experiencing it “in entirely new, exciting and innovative ways.”

George’s had already partnered with McCormick on a variety of bloody Mary mixes, so it seemed natural to take it to the next step, he said.

“I love vodka, and it’s a big part of what we serve with our bloody Marys,” David said. “We wanted to make a great, delicious-tasting vodka.”

But the team didn’t stop there. David said it was key to make a natural product, organic even, that would use best practices for the environment, limiting the amount of wastewater and keeping sustainability at the forefront of the project.

To that end, Old Bay vodka is being produced by McClintock Distilling, a craft distillery that uses organic ingredients to produce vodkas, gins and whiskeys in downtown Frederick. David, who has a background as a bartender and mixologist, said the company pulls its water from an aquifer that also supplies areas of Kentucky that are known for producing excellent liquors.

McClintock said in a news release that it “built out a dedicated state-of-the-art facility for production” of the Old Bay spirit, which David described as, “not too strong. It’s a very inviting, crisp, refreshing and smooth vodka. It has fresh celery and herbal notes, followed by sweet spice and mild heat [from red pepper].”

To get the Old Bay taste into the vodka, David said McCormick’s scientific team created a crystal-clear liquid Old Bay flavor. “That took about the better part of the year to develop,” he said.

Old Bay vodka joins Old Bay hot sauce, which was introduced in 2020 by the Hunt Valley-based spice company. The sauce sold out online just hours after its announcement; it took about six months to replenish and finally reach stores.

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Just like the hot sauce, the creators of the vodka hope it will become a favorite in the kitchen as well as the bar.

“We made something that would be great for, like, a pasta sauce with vodka,” said David, adding that recipe development was part of the project.

One of his favorites is the Bay Crush, a take on the Maryland favorite orange crush drink. “Instead of being made with an orange, it’s made with a fresh-squeezed lemon. It’s just so good.”

Old Bay Vodka is 70 proof or 35% alcohol by volume. It will retail for $18.99 to $20.99 per bottle. Recipes and more information can be found at oldbayvodka.com.

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