Last month, we spoke with a handful of bartenders who are rethinking what a beer cocktail can be, beyond the shandies, radlers and boilermakers of tradition. And for good reason: beer is delicious on its own, of course, but using it in tandem with other spirits, juices and liqueurs opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
Along the way, we discovered some recipes that approach beer with a level of creativity typically reserved for the spirits side of the bar menu – and at least a couple that are tailor-made for summertime drinking. From a dark, creamy Fernet and brown ale drink to a patio-worthy raspberry limeade, here are a few to try on your own:
The Carwyn Viking
Jacob Grier, the Portland bartender who literally wrote the book on beer cocktails, also happens to be a vocal advocate of aquavit, the Scandinavian spirit flavored primarily with caraway and dill. He created this tiki-esque cocktail for a beer cocktail throwdown at Carwyn Cellars during Good Beer Week in Melbourne, Australia.
“The idea was that the bar picked three beers, and I would come up with a beer cocktail for each beer and so would their staff, with the crowd getting to try them all,” he says. “This drink was what I came up with for Boatrocker Jungle Jive, a sour IPA from Boatrocker Brewing Company in Melbourne. That's not available in the US, but this is adapted to work with any good citrusy IPA.”
- 1 1/2 oz Linie aquavit
- 1 oz citrusy IPA
- 1 oz lime juice
- 1/2 oz B. G. Reynold's falernum
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- mint, for garnish
Shake with ice, strain into an ice-filled rocks glass, and garnish with a big bouquet of fresh mint.
The Holy Mole
Bob Peters, of Charlotte’s Punch Room at the Ritz-Carlton, sees beer as a great modifier with which to highlight the base spirit of a cocktail. In this case, smoky Vida Mezcal is backed by the depth and richness of a locally brewed cocoa nib and coconut Porter from Charlotte’s NoDa Brewing. Peters describes it as “a playful riff off of a traditional Mexican molé sauce.”
- 2 oz of Vida Mezcal
- .75 oz of homemade cinnamon syrup
- .5 oz of Cynar
- 1.5 oz of a locally brewed Coco Loco Porter from NoDa Brewery (coco nib and coconut)
Garnished with a homemade pickled jalapeño.
Last month, we chatted with Nate Shuman about his approach toward the beer cocktails he makes at Scout, a neighborhood bar in Atlanta’s Oakhurst Village. Shuman sees Scout more as a convivial, communal hangout than “some temple to mixology,” but he knows his regulars also enjoy trying new things. “They dig our beer cocktails like crazy,” he says – particularly the Nitro Toronto, featuring a top-selling kegged cocktail rye, Fernet Brancamenta, and a Coca-Cola reduction, topped with a nitro brown ale made just a few miles up the street in Decatur.
Nate describes it as a mash-up of classic Fernet and Coke, and a Toronto cocktail. “It comes out really creamy like a Guinness or a nitro coffee, which was my goal for this cocktail. The flavors are really excellent, it's always cold, it's always consistent, it rides that middle line where the beer kind of cools out the alcohol a little bit.”
- Half rocks glass of Wild Heaven Nitrode to Mercy or other nitro Stout / Porter
- 2oz George Dickel Rye Whiskey
- .5oz Fernet Branca Menta
- .25oz Coca-Cola Brown Sugar Syrup
- 3 Dashes 1821 Havana & Hide Barrel Aged Bitters
Combine all ingredients except beer in shaker tin. Add ice and shake very hard until well chilled. Fine strain thru wire mesh strainer into beer. Express the oils from a lemon peel of the top of the foamy beverage and garnish. Enjoy while still very chilled.
Barman Stephen Kurpinsky is a vocal advocate for the drink community in San Diego, where he tends bar at George’s on the Cove. He made this punch recipe for Nopalito, a local farm that grows hops for a few San Diego breweries, but took such a liking to the recipe that he plans to add a variation on it to the menu this autumn at George’s.
In his original version, he uses a technique known as fat-washing to give the gin a more viscous, savory mouthfeel with housemade hop butter – but for the sake of simplicity, here’s a more home bartender-friendly version.
- 1 oz Dry gin
- .50 oz Mandarine Napoleon
- 1 oz lemon
- .25 oz oleo Saccharum
- .25 oz orange blossom oolong tea syrup (1:1)
- 2 oz West Coast style IPA
Add all ingredients besides IPA to a shaker tin, add ice, shake, add beer to a rocks glass with ice, strain shaken cocktail over the beer and ice. Garnish with fresh hops.
Another winner from Nate Shuman’s Scout cocktail menu, this pairs an unexpected combination of tropical banana shrub with another local-to-Atlanta IPA (from Three Taverns Brewing) and bourbon. While that may sound like an aggressive trio, it works: this is a deceptively easy-drinking cocktail.
- Half rocks glass of Three Taverns Night in Brussels IPA
- 1.5oz Chattanooga Resierve Bourbon
- .5oz Hamiltons Pimento Dram
- 1oz Banana Ginger Shrub
- Many Dashes Of El Guapo Chicory Pecan Bitters
Combine all ingredients except beer in shaker tin. Add ice and shake very hard until well chilled. Fine strain thru wire mesh strainer into beer. Express the oils from a grapefruit peel of the top of the foamy beverage. Enjoy while still very chilled.
Torched Hop is a cavernous, busy brewpub that opened in Atlanta last year. Their beverage focus is mainly on the craft beers they brew on-site, but some of those beers are perfect fodder for cocktail experimentation.
The Raspberry Lucy, a juicy 5.5% raspberry Berlinerweisse, is day-drinking material on its own. With the addition of a cherry watermelon vodka infusion, triple sec, and lime juice, it becomes the Lucy’s Limeade, an adult-friendly version of a nostalgic, summertime Sonic drive-in classic. This cocktail has no bitters, no obscure ingredients and no complicated techniques, but it does have mass appeal in spades.
- 2oz of infused cherry watermelon vodka
- .5oz fresh lime juice
- .5oz triple sec
Shake and strain and then top with 6oz of Torched Hop's Raspberry Lucy.