The owners of W.C. Harlan would rather we not write about it-not because they're afraid of what we might say, but because they would prefer to maintain the bar's status as something of a modern-day speakeasy, passed from patron to patron by word of mouth, like a hot secret. But we here at Baltimore's Drunkest Alternative Weekly have a responsibility to tell you, the reader, about the best places to separate you from your hard-earned money, and W.C. Harlan has, in the span of several weeks, ascended the list of fine establishments. Keeping with the Prohibition-era discretion, the place is hard to spot and it has no website. To keep from completely blowing up the spot, we'll refrain from publishing the address.
So is the buzz surrounding this watering hole just hype created by the mystique of secrecy? Hardly. The space is about as big as your standard Baltimore corner bar, but the interior of Harlan is filled with well-crafted wooden tables, and chandeliers, mirrors, and framed pictures that date to the early 20th century. It's like a Parisian joint from the same era and feels homey and cozy without being haughty.
What really distinguishes W.C. Harlan is the cocktails. On a recent Thursday, we tried the sazerac (pictured) and the cocktail du jour, a mixture of ginger-marbled brandy, maraschino liqueur, and bitters, and it was deliciously citrusy and sweet but not overly so. We also had a manhattan with Rittenhouse Rye that was quite smooth and not too heavy on the vermouth. The bar has two house beers, a black lager and a wheat beer, which it offers with an ounce of liqueur-amaretto for the black, peach for the wheat-that were quite tasty. We look forward to seeing what they concoct next.