After 21 years spent waiting to legally go to a sophisticated Baltimore bar, two friends and I decided to mask up and make the short 15-minute walk to Dutch Courage, a cocktail bar located in the historic Old Goucher.
Disguised as a corner townhouse, the inconspicuous establishment offered homey, welcoming vibes. Warmly lit and decorated with vintage relics, the plush living room created a bright, clean ambiance, unlike any bar I’ve frequented before. Wishing I had come here pre-pandemic so my friends and I could sit on the red velvet chairs under the golden light instead of bracing the frosty patio, just having the opportunity to order inside gave us the chance to appreciate the purposeful and beautiful interior decorations.
It isn’t until we reached the modern white-marble bar centered in the main room that it became obvious that Dutch Courage is no normal cocktail bar. The sophisticated and seemingly endless drink options were overwhelming for our college-aged crowd but would-be heaven for alcohol connoisseurs.
Officially a gin bar, Dutch Courage has utterly conquered the concept of to-go cocktails. Pre-bottled, multi-serving concoctions are sold alongside standard beer, wine and spirits. My friends and I settled on two cocktails served in what can only be compared to cough syrup bottles.
After making our purchase at the bar, we were given disposable cups and led outside to a socially distanced and rather adorable patio. Dutch Courage also offers food, some of which is cooked outside, resulting in the entire area being drenched in the smoky scent of charred meats and vegetables.
The first cocktail we tried was called Honey Smack ($42). The bottled cocktails yield four drinks apiece. Composed of Far North Ålander Nordic spiced rum, Plantation O.F.T.D. rum, coconut honey, cinnamon and tincture, this drink was equally strong as it was delicious. I appreciated the warming effects of the alcohol in conjunction with the toasty flavors of the spiced rum and cinnamon, making the outdoor experience more than enjoyable.
We realized quickly we might have misjudged our drinking abilities for a weeknight and weren’t even able to finish our first bottle, but this was not for a lack of taste. Thankfully, with the ingenuity of the resealable to-go bottle, we were able to take home our leftover drinks — a new invention I hope continues long after the end of the pandemic.
The second cocktail, titled Autumn Tale ($27), included a mix of Far North Solveig gin, Averell Damson Plum, Becherovka, lemon, rosemary maple syrup and absinthe. What could have been a battleground for too many strong, competing flavors instead coalesced in a smooth and earthy taste.
We were so drawn to the striking appearance of the bottled cocktails with their delicately designed labels and strange medicinal look, we neglected the wide array of food options.
Aside from the large-plate menu, which features Gnocchi Ropa Vieja and Shepherd’s Pie, Dutch Courage offers small bites and appetizers. On a previous visit, I had sampled the simple cheese plate, complete with crostini and accoutrement (you can choose the cheeses and cured meats you want). During this venture, my friends and I settled on a soft goat’s milk cheese and the buttery semi-soft cow’s milk. It would be an understatement to say this plate was delicious, seeing as we immediately ordered a second after licking the plate clean.
Although going out in a pandemic is by default a risk, Dutch Courage has set in place enough sanitizing stations, decent social distance protocol and limited capacity to ensure their guests’ safety. In addition to these measures, the bar has a sign-in sheet to assist with contact tracing.
Consuming your drink on location is also by no means required, and stopping by to pick up a drink to enjoy at home is an easy additional safety measure. In addition to the to-go cocktail options, guests can purchase whole bottles of alcohol at the “Bottle Shoppe,” which is located inside the bar.
However, after weeks of isolation indoors, my friends and I needed a night out, even if that meant we would have to bundle up and sit on metal furniture surrounded by snow. For students looking for a way to safely socialize, this was a small price to pay.