A Brief History of Shandies Around the World

June 13, 2017

By Priya Krishna, June 13, 2017

’Tis the season for the shandy. The part-beer part-juice combo is quickly becoming one of the more popular warm-weather coolers, even rivaling rosé as the unofficial drink of the summer. The beauty of the shandy lies in its versatility (you can easily intermingle various types of beers and mixers) and its drinkability — both juice and soda nicely temper the bitterness of beer, making shandies easy sipping even for the hops-averse.  

Practically every major American beer brand has put out its own version of the shandy — you’ve got the Sixpoint RAD, the Sam Adams Porch Rocker, and my personal favorite, the Del’s Shandy, combining the classic Narragansett gold medal lager with the cult Rhode Island lemonade, Del’s.

But shandies were not, in fact, invented in America. The drink’s origins can be traced back to Britain, though the theories abound as to how exactly it came to be: perhaps it was created by Henry VIII, who drank it to contend with his marriage woes; or by eighteenth century Irish novelist Laurence Sterne in his book, Tristram Shandy. Some say that in the early days, the shandy was a mix of champagne and beer, but that combination later became ginger ale and beer when the drink went more mainstream, and champagne was deemed too expensive for the average citizen.

There are countless variations on the beer-plus-juice model that have been circulating around the world, many that likely predated the first recordings of the shandy by the Brits. Take a look at nine countries’ distinctive (and delicious) takes on the summer sipper. 

Shandygaff (Britain)

The shandy that launched a thousand copycats. This English standard, which was a favorite of nineteenth century British soldiers rationing their beer supply, typically combines a Pilsner with a ginger beer. The “-gaff” portion is allegedly a reference to the half ginger beer component of the drink (ginger + half = gaff).

The lightness of the lemonade pleasantly cuts through the rich, coffee-like flavors in the dark beer.”

Kip Lin (Singapore)

This surprisingly refreshing shandy variant was invented when Singaporean architect and architectural historian Lee Kip Lin thought to combine tonic water and lager, producing something resembling a very crisp, sparkling beer. The drink became known as the Kip Lin, after its inventor.

Radler (Germany)

The Radler — a term often used interchangeably with “shandy” to broadly define the category — is a tangy beer-lemonade combo said to have come to being in 1922, when German chemist Francis Xaver Kugler spontaneously whipped it up for a group of thirsty cyclists passing by his house when beer was in short supply. The drink was originally called the Radlermass, which translates to “cyclist liter,” but was then shortened to Radler (just “cyclist”). Lots of German beer companies sell variations on a Radler, like the Schofferhoffer, or the Stiegl Radler — both combining grapefruit soda and lager. There are even sub-categories of the Radler in Germany, such as the Alster (Pilsner and lemon soda), and the Russ (Hefeweizen and lemon soda).

Portergaff (Australia)

Also known as the portagaf or the portogaf, this Australian standard is a stout with a bit of lemonade. It is not the most obvious combination in the world, but the lightness of the lemonade pleasantly cuts through the rich, coffee-like flavors in the dark beer.   

Michelada (Mexico)

It’s somewhat of a stretch to include Micheladas under the umbrella of the Shandy family, what with all the ingredients involved, but it does happen to be one of the more ingenious beer cocktails out there. Mexican beer, lime juice, spices, clamato (or tomato juice), and hot sauce — all served in a salt-rimmed glass. The name is a combination of Spanish slang — “chela” for beer, “ada” short for “helada,” meaning cold or ice, and “mi” which means mine. In other words, “my cold beer.” Let’s not also forget about the simpler and realistically much more shandy-like Chelada, consisting of just beer and lime juice.  

Ask for una clara, muy clara, and the bartender will go light on the beer, heavy on the lemon.”

Panaché or Monaco (France)

A Panaché (French for “mixed,”) comprises half a beer and half a carbonated lemonade (or some other kind of citrus-based soda). The drink is also often called a Monaco, but if we’re being technical, the Monaco is different in that it incorporates a dash of Grenadine. The Panaché is a fairly common daytime refreshment in France, also found pretty widely in Switzerland and Belgium.

Sneeuwwitje (Netherlands)

Sneeuwwitje literally means “Snow White” in Dutch, a reference to the popular fairy tale character. Somewhat curiously, it’s also the common term for the Netherlands’ signature shandy. The drink is one-fifth beer, and four-fifths 7-Up (or lemonade) —not exactly a snowy-hued beverage, but clean and easy-drinking nonetheless.  

Clara (Spain)

You may know the quintessential Spanish summer drink to be sangria, but Clara, beer with soda or carbonated lemonade, has an equally solid following in the country — particularly as a lunchtime libation. Ask for una clara, muy clara, and the bartender will go light on the beer, heavy on the lemon.

Bul (Cuba)

The Bul (pronounced like “bool”) starts out as a shandygaff, combining equal parts ginger ale and beer. Then it veers into lighter, brighter territory with a generous addition of lime juice, and anywhere from a dash to a handful of sugar — one of Cuba’s most well-known exports.

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