beer-cocktails

In lieu of a Manhattan Monday post, I needed something with a little more kick. Some Monday’s are just like that. Growing up in the south, I learned to love spice and especially jerk chicken. Another Jamaican export, the Dark ‘N Stormy cocktail calls for spiced rum, but I like to mix it and a classic Rye 'N Ginger, plus a little bitters for some extra fun. Now if only I could come up with a name for it…

Combine all liquid ingredients in a rocks glass with one large ice cube and give it a stir. Garnish with a lime wheel, or just toss it right in. It’s a little sweet, a little spicy, and it’ll kick Monday right in the ass.

Cheers.

“Beertails: Right or Wrong?”

A great article on beer cocktails by Theodora Sutcliffe. You gotta love the classics - a michelada is one of my go tos on a hot L.A. day - but I love where Underdog is going with the beer reductions - essentially creating beer “vermouths”.

“Hot ale drinks have a long heritage in the Anglo world (although hot beer isn’t unique to Anglo cultures - Tibetan tongba is always consumed hot). During medieval times, unhopped ales were made into possets - with bread, milk, sugar and spices – lamb’s wool - with roasted apples - and wassail - a Christmas spiced ale. 

When rum appeared on the scene, flips entered the picture. The basic flip combined hot ale with rum and sugar - most also added various combinations of egg, cream and spices. By the 1700s, flips were big business for taverns on both sides of the pond. 

American taverns offered bewildering ranges of hot ale drinks, from the Calibogus, with rum, spruce beer and molasses, to a Yard of Flannel, popular at one of George Washington’s favoured taverns. Abbott’s Tavern in Holden, Massachusetts, was famous across America for its flips: a mug of New England Flip or West India Flip cost more than a meal or a bed for the night. 

And flips made for great bar theatre. Ale was warmed at the fire, where the loggerhead, an iron bar, would heat in the embers. The tavernkeeper poured the sweet and creamy base mix into the hot ale, then plunged the red-hot loggerhead into the mug to caramelise the sugars and foam the drink, filling the smoky tavern air with the scent of spices. 

And, with Jamie Oliver reviving the British tavern hot beer drink Huckle-my-Buff, and Dogfish Brewery producing a limited edition ale for flip - imaginatively named FL!P - for Eataly Chicago’s launch last year, it’s more than possible that the old-school flip is due another day in the sun. 

Still, when Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks first hit the scene in 1862, he only included eight beer drinks - seven different flips, and a member of the same family called Rumfustian. All of these were rapidly heading out of style, in favour of cool drinks, thanks to the marvels of ice: Robert Vermeire’s 1922 Cocktails: How To Mix Them mentions beer only dismissively and in passing. 

Probably the earliest known beertail is the Black Velvet, created around the time Prince Albert died in 1861. Queen Victoria would mourn him until she died four decades later: she wore widow’s weeds and insisted her court also wear formal mourning clothes. Mourning armbands became an essential fashion item for any man-about-town hoping to make his way in high society - and it’s most likely from these that the Black Velvet takes its memorable name. 

Rather more obvious than this combination of stout and champagne is ye olde favourite - beer and a shot. Long before the Boilermaker, the Depth Charge or the Steel Bottom, came the Pop-In, an English combination of ale and spirits. (Dead Rabbit NYC is currently reviving this with a menu of beer and bitters.) 

More or less awful combinations of half-beer and half-something-else appeared over the twentieth century. The Black and Tan layered stout and lager; the Shandy paired tap lager with chemical, sugary, gun lemonade; the Sandygaff combined stout and ginger beer; the Snakebite married tap lager with sweet cider. With the "inspired” addition of blackcurrant cordial, the beertail reached what is arguably still it’s nadir in the Snakebite and Black, a concoction which decorated all the best suburban pavements during its 80s heyday. 

Most of these drinks have left no trace on the new generation of beer cocktails. One that has? The Mexican favourite, the Michelada, an ultra-refreshing drink that’s basically beer with lime, salt and Tabasco (and possibly some other stuff if the mood takes you). The Red Eye added tomato juice and, often, a raw egg yolk; some contemporary variants include tequila; others, like the Happy Mich, include surprising flavourings like watermelon and hibiscus. 

But the new generation of beer cocktails began to emerge around the start of this decade. Shady Pines Saloon, in Sydney, based an entire menu around Boilermakers - pairing fine spirits with craft beers. By 2012, beer cocktails were well enough known for Tales of the Cocktail to devote a seminar to the topic; last year’s London Cocktail Week hosted a beertail competition (you can read the winning drinks here). 

Today elite restaurants from the Gramercy Tavern in New York through to Nopa San Francisco feature beer cocktails on their menus, while Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew is a bestseller at Hawksmoor. (The menu disarmingly describes it as a turbo shandy.) Underdog, the speakeasy-styled bar below BrewDog in Shoreditch, majors on cocktails made with their craft beers. 

How to use beers in cocktails? Well, that depends on the beer, and on the cocktail. One obvious way is to use the beer as an alternative to a soda or a juice - as a top, essentially. Depending on the beer and the proportions, a top can add length, fizz, bitterness, acidity, sweetness, fruity notes and, of course, a head. 

Sour wheat beers and Belgian fruit beers can work well with fresh fruit juice and fruit liqueurs - the Lambic Sangria uses fruit lambics in place of the default red wine. Simone Caporale’s The Reality Check uses hoppy Budvar as one might use spicy ginger beer to top a mix of raspberries, vodka and Becherovka. 

Classics tweaked with beer - beersics? - include the Dark & Stoutly, by Doug Frost, featuring El Dorado rum, a ginger-chilli syrup and fresh lime topped with stout. The Black Bee, with stout, bourbon, lemon and honey, from Parish, in LA, derives ultimately from the Bee’s Knees by way of a bourbon variant, the Gold Rush. 

Then there are, of course, the endless variations on the Lagerita/Largarita, not to mention the Peroni Negroni (though there are better ways to add hoppy bitterness to the Negroni than by chucking in beer, such as hopping the gin or reducing the beer). 

Another alternative is to use beer as an accent. The Mantini uses a hint of Fuller’s London Pride as an alternative to vermouth - while the folk at Underdog go one better and transform their beers into “vermouths”. A number of cocktails, among them the London Mule, use beer reductions (beer simmered with sugar and/or spices and reduced to syrup) to add the taste of beer without the volume. 

When it comes to beer cocktails nowadays, in fact, there only is one hard and fast rule: use good beer. With all the different craft brews available nowadays, there’s honestly no excuse.“

Source: Class

Sipping: Elijah Craig 12 7G S.B.

A few months ago the avant-garde restaurant WD-50, on the Lower East Side, introduced a beer cocktail called the Black & Yellow. The name is a play on the Black & Tan, a classic layering of light and dark ales. In the Black & Yellow the top layer is indeed dark ale, but the bottom is a mix of kumquat-infused gin, yuzu juice and St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur.

(Via NYT)

What About Beer Cocktails?

I like cocktails, and the last decade has been a good time for people like me (even though I’ve only been able to enjoy–legally and tastefully–cocktails since 2006). But now it’s beer’s turn. Our sister/father/mother/cousin/uncle blog Brew Noob is all about the oat soda, and there’s certainly no shortage of information.

But sometimes our worlds collide. I’m not talking about my own decisions to drink beer now and then or the Brew Noob’s love of Martinis. I’m talking about beer cocktails.

There’s a gastropub down the street from me that has a beer sommelier on staff (or so the rumors say). They serve fine brews from small brewers. There’s a microbrewery near my office that always has an empty table when I’m done working for the day and in want of a pint. Both of these establishments have a corner of the menu I ignore, and it’s not the list of bacon dishes*. It’s the beer cocktails section.

These cocktails go beyond the standard Snakebite, or Black and Tan (the latter of which is delicious) and incorporate fruit juices, flavorings and spirits. Some people are outraged that these concoctions are served. Other point out that they must be worth drinking if they’re the only questionable items on an otherwise stellar food and drink menu. When I think about beer cocktails I’m split between my curmudgeonly nature and my love of experimentation behind the bar.

But I avoid beer cocktails. I have a (possibly irrational) distaste for anything that uses food as ingredients. I don’t want to eat a cake made with Twinkies instead of flour, why would I drink a cocktail made out of a finished drink. Then again, bourbon is great neat, but I still love Manhattans. (Similarly: Oreos and ice cream are both fine alone, but that hasn’t stopped me from eating one Oreo Blizzard a year.)

I can honestly saw that my avoidance of beer cocktails is driven by my distaste for all drinks designed to get the drinker drunk. The Irish Car Bomb and mixed Boilermaker are case in point. There’s no savoring, just chugging. It’s also why I avoid cocktails designed to mask the taste of liquor. But these beer cocktails I see are made by people with an appreciation for the craft. I can’t disagree with someone who is honestly trying to make something great out of a set of delicious ingredients. Maybe the cocktails enhance the flavor of the beer, and my initial reaction (“Why not just order a beer?”) may be akin to telling all you cocktail fans to drop the vermouths and bitters and take all your spirits on the rocks. So next time I’m at a place with trustable taste and beer cocktails on the menu, I’ll venture a few bucks…it’s in the name of science.  

*I actually really like bacon, but the whole bacon meme has gone too far. I don’t want my fried meat to be hipper than me.