And they’re off! Now that Derby de Mayo has had its day, it’s time to head to Pimlico Race Course for the second jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown, The Preakness Stakes. But first, you’ll need to restock the bar. Our hot tip, put down the tequila and the Mint Juleps and stay local. Check into Baltimore’s Hotel Revival in the historic Mount Vernon section of town. You’ll be treated like a champion at this new boutique property and it’s hip rooftop bar, Topside. After placing your Preakness bets, enjoy a pre-race drink with Bar Manager, and mixology extraordinaire, Chelsea Gregoire. Not a fan of the traditional Black-eyed Susan? Let her shake you up a “Not A Preakness Cocktail” along with other clever concoctions celebrating local Baltimore fare with a modern twist. With cocktail names like “Shandi, You’re A Fine Girl,” “Shrubs n’ Rosés” and “All About the Benjamins” we’re already fans. So we caught up with Chelsea in the winner’s circle to chat about beer, booze, and Baltimore.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? And how you got started bartending?
I’ve run the full beverage gamut, starting as a barista and working (and studying) my way through tons of positions in food and beverage, both front of house and management. Bartending was something I fell into: a passion for beverage led me to learning about spirits (a lot from my neighborhood bartender, admittedly) and how to build those flavors together. A lot of experimentation, mentorship, and hospitality experience later, here we are!
Creating a cocktail menu for a unique property like Hotel Revival is a pretty big undertaking. Where did you find your inspiration?
A lot of my inspiration came from the vision set out for the outlets: the fun beer-centric feel of Topside, the farm relationships and local dedication of Square Meal, the botanical vibes of Garden Room, the late night party atmosphere of B-Side. As I started to taste for these different spaces, talk to Chef about his farm partnerships, work in the kitchen alongside Chef Wilbur and Chef Shalonda (having a great time, but playing with a lot of culinary methods and flavors), everything kind of came together. It was the community of our team here that really helped me push these cocktails to the next level.
There’s a lot of local flavors mixed into your cocktails. Can you tell us about the Hotel Revival neighborhood partnerships?
Our house beer, ThirStay, is a partnership with Peabody Heights Brewing, a local brewer and contract brewing facility…it expounds on their existing beer “ThirsTAY” (Stay for the hotel, yeah?), with the addition of some more hop varieties. We selected a barrel with Old Line Spirits out in Highlandtown for their American single malt whiskey that we did a private bottling for, and we feature that on all of our bars, but most notably in the Not a Preakness Cocktail and in our boilermaker, Darkwing Duck Re-Runs. I also work closely with Shrub District out of Washington DC, using their sustainable cocktail vinegars to provide acidity and fruit to our sustainable boilermaker shots, and also to provide some extra special character to the Shrubs n’ Rosés cocktail on Topside. Lost Ark Distilling out of Columbia, Maryland, provides us with their delicious Terra Mariae spiced rum to provide the base for “Why’d It Have to Be Snakes?!”, a springtime old fashioned riff. I also use local producers with products like Hey Thanks Herbal Co’s honey-cardamom bitters, the Charmington Holistics Rosella Tincture, and Wild Kombucha (in a bottle and on draft).
How much were you personally involved with the Peabody Brewery in brewing the Hotel Revival signature beer, ThirStay?
ThirStay was already ready to go by the time I joined the team, but I love putting it in front of guests…its such a unique experience to have a house beer.
What can you tell us about your “Not A Preakness Cocktail”? Does it resemble the traditional Black-eyed Susan?
The Black Eyed Susan and the Preakness Cocktail are two totally different animals! The original Preakness cocktail (that’s the official name!) was rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and Angostura bitters with a lemon twist. The proportions were a bit unbalanced, so we refined that: we replaced rye with the Old Line American Single Malt, Benedictine was replaced by Drambuie, and instead of using the lemon twist, we used a lemon oleo saccharum syrup to bring balance and add depth.
What is your favorite off-duty drink?
At the end of the day, I love a delicious beer, but if I’m out on the town, a traditional daiquiri or a gin martini are my two drinks of choice.
As a Baltimore native, what should visitors know?
Baltimore is a blue-collar city with a lot of charm, even in the most unexpected places. Our city of neighborhoods will give you plenty of opportunity for exploration and fun. The most important thing I tell everyone is: don’t listen to the news, it’s called Charm City for a reason. Enjoy your visit!
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