Charm City Cocktails – Rye

Rye provides a nice safehaven from the hustle and bustle of Baltimore’s beautiful Fells Point neighborhood.

Ambiance: ***1/2

Decor: ***1/2

Service: ****

Cocktails: ***1/2

Overall Rating: 3.5

I am a much-traveled veteran of the 95-corridor and have driven through Baltimore many, many times.  Always through, however, never to; other than a childhood trip to the aquarium, I’ve never visited the home of booze-loving scribes such as Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Dashiell Hammett.  So in the heady spirit of Boxing Day, I sought to redress this by staying in the historical district of Fells Point, a lively and frenetic setting for my introduction to Baltimore.  The district is also home to Rye, a cocktail spot that was recommended by a friend.  Rye offers a pleasing and warm setting  and a formidable cocktail list, neatly categorized as “refreshing” down to “bracing”.

Drunk on the spirit of the Charm City, I delved into Rye’s drinks with reckless abandon.  I started with the “Commodore 64” with bourbon, cacao, fresh orange, lemon, and pomegranate.  This was a little off, refreshing, but the bourbon was out of balance, clashing with the citrus and fruit sensations.  Not bad and probably a better drink for a hot summer day. Next was the “Diablo” with tequila, creme de cassis, fresh lime, and ginger beer.  This was my favorite drink of the evening, with a sprightly taste reminiscent of a Moscow Mule but somewhat harsher, with a great citrus burn off of the lime and the tequila.

On to the “Surfer Rosa” with tequila, hibiscus tea cordial, fresh lime, and blackberry.  I was excited about this one but it was a bit understated for my tastes, the lime and blackberry providing the dominant sensations.  The look of the drink, however, is anything but subtle, a gorgeous crimson hue off of the blackberry.  Then we had the “Brown Derby” with bourbon, fresh grapefruit, and honey syrup.  This simple little diddy was a tad uneven with the bourbon and grapefruit clashing and I didn’t pick up on the honey syrup, although it does add some viscosity to the mix.  Not bad.

The “Last Word” came next with gin, green chartreuse, lime, and maraschino liqueur.  Didn’t love this one as it was weighed down by the chartreuse taste and the maraschino didn’t quite work, in my opinion.  The gin and lemon tastes were nice, but this wasn’t for me.  We then moved into the adventurous world with the “Naked and Famous” which carries mezcal, aperol, yellow chartreuse, and fresh lime.  Interesting drink with a strong chartreuse and aperol taste and herbal notes throughout.  The mezcal burns as usual but the hit is influenced heavily here by the other ingredients, making for a unique sensation as you sip.

I then sipped the “Amen Break” with rum, sweet vermouth, sloe gin, lemon, and simple syrup.  This was very good, almost tropical and very powerful with a strong belt off of the rum.  An easy and rewarding drink with a nice texture.  We switched skins with the “Chameleon” with gin, pear liqueur, amaro, lemon, and lavender bitters.  This was an intriguing taste – I was pumped to try it given my love of gin and pear, but this was not the refreshing taste I expected.  The kick off of the amaro and lemon comes early after a light beginning, adding some real, bitter stringency to the swallow.  Wasn’t quite for me but I admired the daring and unique impact of the mixture.

Our finale was the “Diamondback No.5” with rye, yellow chartreuse, applejack, and root liqueur.  This certainly lived up to its characterization as the energetic ingredients provide a very powerful taste sensation.  The rye and the chartreuse are strong here but I was sad I didn’t pick up as much on the applejack.

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