Sometimes, life gives you tough choices. Take the job in New York or stay in Los Angeles? Marry him or end it? Go to sleep or watch Friends reruns until 3 AM? Do laundry or just buy new underwear?
Fortunately, if you’re a fan of both beer and cocktails like me, it turns out you don’t always have to choose. Rejoice, indecisive friends: beer cocktails are actually a thing. After extensive research (read: asking my favorite bartenders to whip up a cocktail with beer in it), I’ve found that they can actually be – dare I say – pretty damn good.
Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about those sake bombs you had at some Alpha Beta Gamma frat party (no offense). Yes, dropping a shot of liquor into a glass of beer was fun in the good ol’ days, but you’ve totally grown up since then, right? Of course right.
Beer Cocktails 101
According to Wikipedia, which should be taken as gospel because the Internet never lies, a beer cocktail is “a cocktail that is made by mixing beer with a distilled beverage or another style of beer.” (This last part is key, because it means Beer 1 + Beer 2 = Beer Cocktail, which totally makes sense in alcohol math.) The other main takeaway is the primary ingredient in a beer cocktail is the beer, not the other way around.
Standard Beer Cocktails
In terms of standard beer cocktails you may know, here’s a quick and dirty primer:
- Black and Tan – A blend of a dark beer (e.g., stout or porter) plus a pale ale
- Michelada – Beer, lemon juice, salt, Worcestershire sauce, and Valentina and Maggi hot sauces
- Flaming Dr. Pepper – Beer, high-proof alcohol of your choice, and Amaretto
- Boilermaker – Glass of beer with a shot of whiskey in America; mild ale mixed with bottled brown ale in the UK
- Porchcrawler – Beer, vodka, lemonade concentrate
- Black Velvet – Stout plus sparkling wine or champagne
Any of these sound appetizing to you? If not, that’s OK. One thing is undeniable, though: these beer cocktails are quite refreshing during the warm summer months.
One especially quaffable beer cocktail for hot, humid days is the shandy. The shandy is beer mixed with a soft drink (such as carbonated lemonade or ginger beer) or fruit juice, and is more popular in western Europe compared to the rest of the globe. This isn’t surprising, of course, since many grand beer traditions have emerged out of that area of the world.
Beer Cocktails 201: Or, Advanced Beer Cocktails
In my own personal research, I found bartenders to be quite creative when tasked with the challenge of crafting beer cocktails. They’d combine chamomile liqueur and pilsner, or session lager with Sambuca, Cappelletti Aperitivo, and lemon and orange juices.
One particular standout was the “Stay Gold” at the Up & Up in Manhattan, which featured Virgil Kaine High-Rye Bourbon, ginger, lime juice, and IPA beer.
What makes all of these drinks work is having the right amounts of each ingredient involved. In ensuring the beer doesn’t drown out the other flavors, or vice versa, bartenders are creating balanced, flavorful cocktails and taking them to the next level.
Want to make some of your own beer cocktails instead of heading out to a bar? Check out these recipes below!
Damon Boelte of Prime Meats in Brooklyn crafted this delicious recipe, which makes 8 servings.
- 1 1/4 cups applejack
- 1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
- 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 cups chilled Hefeweizen beer
- 3/4 cup chilled club soda
- 8 lemon wedges
Stir applejack, lemon juice, maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar in a large pitcher. Add one cup of ice. Cover; refrigerate until chilled (about 2 hours). Take out the chilled mixture and stir in beer and club soda. Fill glasses with ice, pour into glasses, garnish with lemon wedges and serve.
This recipe is for all you cider fans out there.
- 6 oz. Stella Artois Cidre
- 8 sprigs fresh cilantro
- 1 lime
- 1/2 tsp. agave syrup
- Soda water
Muddle cilantro and lime in a Collins glass. Add agave syrup and fill with ice. Add Cidre, stir, and top with a splash of club soda.
We’re gettin’ thirsty just reading this delicious recipe.
- 1 oz. fresh-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice
- 3/4 oz sloe gin
- Lone Star beer
- Ginger beer
Add sloe gin and grapefruit juice to the bottom of your pint glass. Fill halfway with Lone Star beer. Top with ginger beer.
In Case You’re Not Fully Convinced Yet…
Say what you will about beer cocktails; they’re not going away any time soon. In fact, they were named as one of the biggest bar trends of 2016, so you might as well get on board the Beer Cocktail train.
After all, you’re going to have to make difficult decisions in life and choosing between beer and cocktails shouldn’t be one of them.