Talking Hops-Tails: Basics For Crafting Your Own Signature Beer Cocktail

I was first introduced to the beer cocktail concept in college. Of course, at the time, I had never heard the term “beer cocktail,” but rather knew drinks like the Irish Car Bomb, the Sake Bomb, and the Black and Tan. While these hops-based cocktails have existed for decades, and in fact, beer cocktails have been traced back to the 17th century, the past three years have seen the introduction of a far more sophisticated selection of cocktails, featuring a countless array of craft beers and top shelf liquors being given a much more upscale presentation than the traditional pint glass.

It’s fair to say that the story of the beer cocktail is still being written, although some favorite players are already emerging, including the Chelada, variations of the Shandy, and modern twists on classic cocktails featuring beer (the Siete y Siete, for example, is a beer-based twist on the Seven & Seven, featuring tequila and Mexican lager). Whether the beer cocktail is a new chapter in the history of mixology or a short-lived craze is still up for debate, but what’s clear is that the “cool kids” in the industry are all joining in the game for as long as it lasts.

While the options for creating your own signature beer cocktail are limitless, beer cocktails tend to fall into one of three categories.

Take One: Beer on Beer

Think Black and Tan, which blends the bitterness of a stout – usually Guinness – with the mild flavor of a pale ale. Combining two beers that complement each other or balance flavor profiles is a quick, easy way to make your first beer cocktail. Another variation, the Black Velvet, can be made by mixing sparkling wine with a stout.

Tip: Try experimenting with light and dark craft beers, or balancing bitter beers with sweeter summer ales for a well-rounded flavor.

Take Two: Beer and Modifiers

The Chelada is a perfect example of this style of beer cocktail, featuring a light lager with lime, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. The Chelada craze has taken on a life of its own, spouting hundreds of variations and related cocktails, each claiming to have achieved its own perfection. The Shandy, popular in the UK, mixes equal parts beer and ginger ale or carbonated lemonade, and can serve as the base for countless cocktail variations. For summer menus, consider making a watermelon or peach beer; or for extra kick, stick with a classic or varied snake bite by combining equal parts beer and hard cider.

Tip: The Shandy is a perfect base for countless beer cocktails. Experiment with different mixers and embellish your cocktail with layers of flavor in the form of fresh fruit juices or some mint.

Take Three: Spirited Beer

While drinks like the Shandy offer big flavor and lower alcohol content, spirit-enhanced beers either seek to boost flavor profiles, adding brandies or liqueurs, or give beers an extra kick with shots of vodka or rum. Beer margaritas are incredibly popular, but for a north of the border beverage, try adding Chambourd to a summer ale or a cherry liqueur to a German hells beer for a light, sweet cocktail.

Tip: Choose light ales as a base for spirited beer cocktails to avoid an overwhelming flavor, or opt for spirits that won’t compete with the flavors of more robust beers.

Now that the story of the beer cocktail is being written, brands are testing their own recipes for your consideration. Grand Marnier, for example, has released a list of recipes sure to please any guest or patron this football season:
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1.5 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
1 strawberry
.5 oz ginger syrup
6 oz wheat beer (Blue Moon)
Muddle strawberry and ginger syrup, add ice. Top with
beer. Float GMCR on top. Garnish with a strawberry.
1 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
6 oz Wheat Beer (Blue Moon)
Chili/salt/spice (Old Bay)
Rim glass with spice blend. Pour beer over ice, stir in lemon
juice, float GMCR on top. Serve with an orange slice.
1.5 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
.75 oz fresh lime juice
6 oz Mexican Beer (Tecate)
Pour beer, stir in lime juice, float GMCR on top.
Serve with a lime slice.
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1.5 oz Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach
.75 oz grapefruit juice
6 oz wheat beer (Blue Moon)
Combine juice and beer over ice. Stir. Top with GMRP.
Garnish with a grapefruit peel.

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