Beer cocktails. No other words spark controversy in the world of craft brew aficionados quite like these do. Beer cocktails have gained traction in the United States in recent years, thanks to creative and skillful bartenders. Still, detractors argue, “Why would you want to ruin a perfectly good craft beer?”
I used to be one of those people who considered beer cocktails blasphemous. However, some summer days are so uncomfortably hot that even a crisp, light beer seems too heavy. Mixing it with fresh juice or sparkling water renders it lighter and more refreshing. It’s a small point, but true enough.
The logic that won me over is this: I love bourbon. Neat, or maybe with one big ice cube, it’s near the top of my “it doesn’t get much better than this” list (also included: mountain drives with my favorite people, bookstores, and perfectly made cappuccinos). I digress. While I often enjoy it neat, I also really love whiskey cocktails. (Is there a finer cocktail than a meticulously stirred Old Fashioned?) I refuse to believe that my appreciation for a finely crafted cocktail negates my affinity for bourbon.
A well-made beer cocktail can allow the more subtle notes in the beer to shine. It can entice people to give beer a chance, even if they are “more of a cocktail person”. Beer cocktails provide an easy way to impress friends with your skills as a bartender (or trick them into thinking you have such skills). Plus, this recipe will stretch your 6 pack without sacrificing flavor.
The shandy has enjoyed a long history in Britain but has been less popular on this side of the pond. I hate to admit it, but those drink-the-beer-warm Brits are on to something with this one. I have yet to craft a classic shandy and am, instead, starting with the shandygaff. This basic mix of ginger beer and ‘real’ beer is both delicious and refreshing – the perfect summer drink, whether doing yard work or sunning yourself poolside. You might want to enlist a few friends, as the ratios are such that you need to make three drinks at once. But this is a sure-fire way to get those friends to love you even more.
In this recipe, the type and flavor of the ginger ale and the type of beer will impact the flavor. If you want the ginger flavor be more noticeable, choose a less-sweet ginger beer or use a lighter beer. If you want a sweeter drink, try a sweeter version of ginger ale (I was able to find one that was sweetened with pineapple juice, imparting a sweet but not sugary flavor. You can also make your own ginger beer without too much effort. I found a milder amber beer to have a nice flavor but also tried one that had been brewed with herbs instead of hops as the bittering agent. Later this summer, as we get into the 90 degree days, I’ll probably try a Pilsner instead. If you’re a cider lover, try a mild ginger ale with a strong cider. What I’m trying to say here is that one of the perks of crafting a shandygaff is that you have a wide range of flavor profiles and options from which to choose!
A Dandy Shandygaff
(Beer & Ginger Cocktail)
2 bottles beer (a light lager works nicely)
1 bottle ginger beer or ale
Directions: Thoroughly chill both beer and ginger ale. Combine in a pitcher before pouring into individual cups.