ummer time , child the livin’s easy, the perfect season for cook outs, picnics or just vegging by a pool , for me there is no better liquid refreshment than a lovely ice cold bottle of beer, you wont get super buzzed so you can still handle flipping some burgers on the coals without falling in or over but mellows you out just enough to enjoy a day off. My love affair with beer is so far almost life long, its my most often used cocktail ingredient other than citrus and sugar, every cocktail I tinker with gets a topping of beer at some point in its evolution, wether it be direct from the bottle in place of soda or champagne, as a fancy foam or as the MVP sweetened up by a bottle of pop,its my main squeeze that I occasionally cheat on.
This baby’s first beer bottle was courtesy of Newcastle Brown Ale, a favorite in our household, I was attracted to the colorful label and figured that something so pretty had to have something tasty inside it,whilst draining the dregs I realized this was not the case, I was about 5 maybe, not until I hit my twenties did I realize that a pint of Newkie can be quite delightful. ( Side note: I also popped a bright green slug into my mouth and chomped down thinking it was a sweetie, you can imagine the screams that issued forth from my 3 year old lungs, thankfully I did not develop a habit for slug eating later in life, though I think something has to be said for the phrase “you eat with your eyes first” )
Grande Bretagne , that cold damp isle that I was raised on, is a nation of beer drinkers,we make some of the best brews in the world especially in the area of Derbyshire where I grew up, they reckon its something to do with the clear sweet water that issues from the springs of Ashbourne where we as kids were sent every april to do the very pagan ritual of dressing the well as an offering to the gods of water. The menfolk also have a time honored ritual on the weekends of trotting off to the local for a pint on saturday lunch and vanishing until well beyond sunset on a sunday night , the excuse was always a match was on but the real reason was the brew was on, the only thing they were blessing were the pumps or at the other end the bog where it all came back out. The Pub ( short for Public house) was always a place to escape from a nagging wife, the woes of life or to see your mates, or at least thats how the Pub has always been portrayed, the local was the hub of every community . I spent a good portion of my younger years hanging out in Pubs that belonged to my best friend’s family , holed up on my summer holidays in Lincolnshire there was not much else to do after mucking out horses ( my first job ) than sniff stale beer and relax with a game of pool , a bag of crisps and a can of Ye Olde Shandy Bass. I credit it for helping me appreciate the finer points of a pint, to this day the smell of horse shit and stale beer bring back fond memories for me. A Shandy(its full name is Shandy Gaff) is typically half beer half soda pop, in the UK a kiddie can buy it in less alcoholic volume, coming ready made by Bass brewery in a can with only about 5% beer in it, totally legal for tikes, nothing wrong with that. When not pubbing it in the summer the weekends were the only time I was allowed a can , it was my reward for showing up to church with minimal whining and combed hair, a dress was stretching it , it would take a whole lot more to get me in something girlie back then, shandy was a valued currency and quickest form of bribery, it would take cold hard cash to get me to dress like a girl though.
After being successfully weened onto the ale by that innocent shandy, my tastes for beer run the gamut these days, possibly my favorite right now is a hoppy IPA, though for summer Lambic ales and sour beers get their fair share of attention too. Winter favorites are stouts, chocolate or espresso for the fancy pants in me, for the working class lass good old Guinness or Boddingtons do the trick. My go to, year round , food friendly alternative to wine however is still the Shandy or in the last few years has evolved into the Beer-tail ( cocktail with beer, and no nothing like an Irish Car Bomb), a drink I have been mixing at home for the last few years is a combo of a Michelada and a Shandy, this last year I was honored that a variation of said tipple was awarded Cocktail of the Year by the good folks at Tasting Table. Am also digging my own version of an Americano Sbagliato ( means fool or clown in Italian) for hot summer evenings, built in a glass over ice with equal parts aperol and sweet vermouth topped off with strawberry lambic ale ( a lambic ale is brewed using spontaneous fermentation which relies on the natural yeasts in the air and the fruits in the mix to kick start the brew, its a style of beer that is less strong, bitter and frothy but is instead fruity and everything a summer ale should be, currently at our bar we are serving it in a Rebujito style drink with house made rhubarb cream soda and manzanilla sherry. Lambic also works really well mixed with wine, my preference is for a berry scented light red burgundy but a pinot noir will do too, add a splash of strawberry lambic to a glass or to gussy up a boring sangria.
Historically the “Beer-tail”is nothing new, according to the Oxford English Dictionary the first mention of beer being mixed with spirits appeared around 1695 and came in the form of a beer flip, a drink that consisted of rum, beer, sugar and egg that was heated with a red hot poker which made the egg and beer froth or flip, over time the beer and the poker disappeared from the equation as witnessed in Jerry Thomas’s Bon Vivant’s tome of the 1800′s, he has everything in there from port wine flips to hot gin flips. I was first introduced to the idea by a NY bartender back in 2008 who made a delicious concoction which involved porter, allspice, rum, sugar and a whole egg, we called it the “Charles Pfaff beer flip” in honor of Charlie Pfaff who opened the first bohemian beer cellar around 1850 in what later turned into Greenwich Village, for a time we were lucky enough to work in the space his bar as well as countless artists of the time inhabited including Messrs Whitman and Twain.
The French have a concoction called Picon Bierre, its a mix of Amer Picon and some form of beer, Picon is a type of bitter or amaro and is quite hard to come by these days, Torani ( those folks behind the syrups you see at fancy coffee shops) have something similar called Torani Amer, I prefer to use something like CiaoCiaro amaro, its not exactly the same but does the trick, Melleti amaro is also a good one to use.
Another way I have been using the brew in cocktails is making into into a foam to add an accent to a non beer-tail, I found that an IPA foam goes well with lighter spirits such as gin, vodka, aquavit and a stout foam better with darker spirits such as rum,whiskey and scotch. A foam is pretty simple to achieve if you have the correct tools ( I think that kind of goes with a lot of things, eating a steak without a knife and fork would be pretty difficult, funny though)
IPA foam/ Guinness foam
6 oz IPA beer/ 6oz Guinness or chocolate stout
4 oz St.Germain/ 4 oz thai coconut milk
2 oz egg white
2 oz saline solution 10:1 ratio water to salt/ 2 oz simple syrup 1:1 ratio sugar to water
4 oz grapefruit juice/ 2oz fernet branca
ISI creamer gun
1 No2 charger
add everything to your gun and screw on the cap, give a good shake BEFORE charging with No2 to incorporate the ingredients , charge with the gas capsule and shake again, try it out on a Tom Collins, Singapore Sling or your choice of Buck.
Here’s a selection of my favorites to get you through the rest of the summer and maybe even fall , depending on your habitat.
The Golden Ale
Below is my original version
1 oz St.Germain
1/2 oz yuzu juice
1/2 oz honey syrup
1/4 oz sriacha hot sauce
4-6 oz chilled Hitachino Red rice beer
( hard spirit such as vodka or tequila is optional, 1 1/2 oz should be enough for the above proportions)
maldon smoked salt for rim
slices of pepper as garnish (optional)
Add everything except the beer to your Boston shaker and shake over ice for about 20 seconds, strain into a chilled, ice filled, smoked salt rimmed collins glass. Top with beer and slurp straight from glass. St.Germain and hot sauce are a marriage made in heaven ( or in my heaven)
Based on a classic Pimms cup using seasonal stone fruits
4-5 pitted fresh cherries
1 oz gin ( 2 oz if you want to get your buzz on faster)
2 oz Pimms #1 blend
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup ( 1:1 ratio sugar to hot water)
mint leaves and a sprig
4 slices of cucumber for muddling plus a couple more for garnish
3 dashes of celery bitters
a bottle of pilsner, I used a can of Bud, something tickled me about the contrast of posh and working class.
In your trusty Boston shaker ,muddle your cherries, cucumber and mint with the simple and lemon juice, dash in your bitters, pour in gin and Pimms add ice and shake for about 30 seconds, dump into a chilled glass of your choice with more ice cubes and top with beer, to make it pretty arrange some cucumber slices inside the glass, garnish with a sprig and cherries.
This drink came to be some time ago, I called it La Romana which was a version of an Americano sbagliato using all Roman ingredients including a splash of fizzy Prosecco. It’s base ingredients stay the same but I have recently started topping it off with a fruity Lambic ale.
1 1/2 oz Aperol
1 1/2 oz Carpana Antica vermouth or Cocchi vermouth di Torino
2 oz strawberry lambic ale
4-5 chunks of grapefruit
grapefruit peel for garnish or something pretty ( we used lavender)
Muddle the grapefruit in the bottom of an old fashioned glass, add aperol and vermouth, add 3 lumps of ice and top with your garnish, one of these is never enough.
I should Coco
1 1/2 oz anejo rum
1 oz lime juice
1 oz coconut milk
1 1/2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz agave
4 drops vanilla extract
dash Cocktail Kingdom falernum bitters
1 1/2 oz banana bread beer ( yes banana bread) failing that a good old Pacifico works pretty good too
toss everything except the beer into your shaker, add a few cubes of ice and shake for about 2o seconds or so, dump into your chosen vessel, top off with the beer and add a sprig of rosemary for scent, something about rosemary and pineapple they riff off each other quite beautifully.
St. James’s Flip
Back to the old beer flip, I used Guinness as my stout, mother’s milk to my Irish friends who claim you can survive on it alone, full of Iron and other goodies for sure, the drink is named after the place Guinness was first brewed.
1 1/2 oz of Irish whiskey
1 oz espresso or cold brew coffee
1/2 oz of cinnamon simple syrup ( toss a teaspoon of Vietnamese cinnamon into a quart of simple syrup)
2 dashes of Miracle Mile Chocolate Chilli bitters
1/2 oz Fernet Branca
1 whole egg
1 can of Guinness
Dry shake without ice all ingredients for about 15 seconds to incorporate the egg and get it nice and creamy, add 4-5 ice cubes and shake for another 2o seconds. Strain into a chilled latte glass , top with a couple of ounces of Guinness, you can add more if you need it less sweet. Dust over a pinch of dutch chocolate powder or nutmeg if the festive mood is upon you.
Next up…..Shrub-a-dub-dub, tree men in a tub