Beer: Our New Favorite Cocktail Ingredient

Our New Favorite Cocktail Ingredient

One of my favorite things about cocktails is that they're so diverse. They can be sweet or savory, filling or refreshing. And they can take advantage of nearly any ingredient imaginable, including egg whites, smoked ice, flavor cubes, and even beer.

As a card-carrying member of the "Beer is Love" club, I'm normally a purist and prefer my brews untouched. But sometimes, it's a great idea to break from tradition. Beer is a fabulous—albeit underutilized—cocktail addition, and a surefire way to make a strong drink that much more refreshing. Here are my top five favorite beertails, which taste best on lazy, hot days.

1. The Beergarita

The trusty beergarita follows a pretty basic formula: if beer is good, and margaritas are equally good, then combining them together must be even better. This equation doesn't always work well with food (fans of Friends will recall Rachel's infamous beef trifle), but it works perfectly here.

Fill a large glass with a wide brim halfway with your favorite margarita recipe. Next, open up a bottle of light Mexican beer and tilt the neck of the bottle past the brim and into the drink. The beer will empty until the glass is full, but it won't overflow. As you sip (or chug) your beergarita, the glass will continue to refill itself with beer until the entire bottle is emptied.

If you're concerned about lifting the glass to your mouth while balancing the beer bottle in your drink, use a straw. Also, I wouldn't recommend using top shelf tequila for the beergarita because its superior flavor will be lost and under-appreciated. With that aside, you can't go wrong with this concoction.

2. The Grapefruit & Gin Beer Cooler

One of my favorite drinks is the DayTime Ale by Lagunitas Brew Company, a beer with strong hops and grapefruit flavors that are simply amazing together. So it's no surprise that adding grapefruit to any India Pale Ale can make it even better. Add a good amount of gin to the mix and you've got yourself a cocktail that is both delicious and incredibly refreshing.

To make a grapefruit and gin beer cooler, mix 2 oz. of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice with 1 oz. of your preferred gin. Add this mixture to a glass with ice, then top the drink off with 6 oz. of your favorite IPA.

If you don't have an IPA around, you can substitute another type of pale ale or a pilsner, but the extra-hoppy flavor of an IPA is what makes this marriage of light flavors work.

3. The Lemonade Shandy

A shandy is a mix of beer and a light soft drink or juice; these refreshing ingredients, when combined, make the perfect all-day drink for a hot day. Shandies are also one of the easiest cocktails in the world to make and improvise. For this version, all you need is beer and lemonade—that's it!

You can't go wrong when making a shandy, but using different ratios and different beers will change the flavor. I'm a fan of using pale ale, but the world is your oyster: a pilsner will result in the most refreshing option, while an IPA or fruity beer will make for an extra-flavorful drink.

I make my shandy with two parts beer to one part lemonade, but it's worth playing with the ratio to find what you enjoy most.

(The Splendid Table has a great list of the 7 major beer categories that you may find helpful when creating new shandy concoctions.)

4. The Beer & Vodka Berry Punch

Combining beer and fruit punch may not sound like a good idea at first, but the key to a good beer punch is knowing what fruits mix well together. A safe bet is mixing berries—strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and so on—but you can also experiment with other types of fruit combinations (or use this cheat sheet to get it right the first time).

To make this punch, put some berries (fresh or frozen is fine) in a blender with a small amount of sugar and lemon juice. Blend the berries into a smooth mixture, then add a ratio of one part vodka and four parts light beer, such as a pilsner or IPA (or other pale ale). Pour the punch into a large bowl, add ice, and stir gently.

Try not to drink it all in one sitting: it's that good.

5. The Michelada

Micheladas are often referred to as Bloody Marys with beer instead of vodka. Unlike Bloody Marys, however, micheladas can be made without tomato juice and don't need any hard liquor.

A michelada has three primary components: Mexican beer, lime juice, and spice, either in the form of chilis or hot sauce. After that, the "necessary" ingredients are up to interpretation and vary depending on the Mexican region; tomato juice, clam juice, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce are all commonly found in micheladas. My favorite version to make at home is this one by Joe Ray of Bon Appétit.

Image by James Ransom/Food52

It's easy to look down on beer cocktails and insist that they mess up the true flavor of the beer, but there are few drinks as fizzy and refreshing as a beer cocktail when you're feeling hot, sweaty, and miserable. Now that I've shared my favorites, what are your preferred beer cocktail recipes?

More Delicious Beer Hacks:

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Photos by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks (unless otherwise stated)


Great beertails, in a wonderfully descriptive entertaining write-up - Top marks sir!

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