There’s a high probability that if you love beer, you’ll be sipping it in a cocktail very soon, if you haven’t already. The trend of lower-alcohol cocktails, along with the rampant growth of cider companies last year, are two main motivators for the recent rise in beer cocktails on menus.
“It’s a fun challenge,” says Darrin Ylisto, bar manager of Sylvain in New Orleans, “to take any beer and try to use liquors, juices, syrups, or bitters to create something that is different and better than the beer itself. I always use at least one spirit, some citrus and sugar, then build from there.”
Ylisto’s latest experiments have rendered the bar’s famous Rebirth Gin Fizz, where beer stands in for the soda water and olive oil replaces the cream. It’s well-suited to a summer brunch, especially in hot New Orleans, though he cautions against pigeonholing your creativity by season when mixing with craft beers. “The obvious thing to do is use beers that are seasonal,” Ylisto says. “But it’s more interesting to do the opposite. For example, in the winter use a summer beer with cold-weather spirits [like a wheat ale and scotch]. Or, try to use a heavier winter beer in the summer with gin.”
“The term ‘beer cocktail’ is like an empty canvas,” agrees Kyle Kensrue, the general manager and certified Cicerone at Randolph Beer in New York. “At the moment, there really are no rules for beer cocktails. We’re still in the beginning-of-the-beginning as far as people really diving into it. The Randy Shandy is actually our first beer cocktail.”
Kensrue’s solution was to put a cocktail on draft that could be topped with a pour of beer to become the Randy Shandy. “We started with Ford’s Gin, because it is very aromatic,” he says. “When you’re adding the alcohol of the beer and the alcohol of the spirit, you can quickly climb [in proof]. Be conscientious of your alcohol levels and how they affect the overall flavour.” With a more aromatic gin, he was able to keep both flavours while not creating a ridiculously high-proof drink.
“The old Belgian brewers would use all kinds of botanicals to balance the sweetness of the beer. Finback [brewery] uses ginger, chamomile, and Szechuan peppercorns,” Kensrue explains. “The final result is something that has a little sweetness, but finishes dry, with a lot of depth of flavour. The more you sip it, the more you find.” And, that’s true with creating any beer cocktail at home. The more you sip and splash, the clearer the picture becomes of what works and what does not.
The Rebirth Gin Fizz
Recipe Courtesy of Sylvain in New Orleans, LA
Darrin Ylisto’s variation of a classic Ramos Gin Fizz substitutes olive oil for the cream and beer for the soda water.
2 oz. London Dry Gin
1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 oz. Demerara Syrup (2 parts raw sugar, 1 part water)
1 oz. NOLA Brewing Company’s Rebirth Pale Ale
1 Egg White
Combine gin, lemon, lime juice, olive oil and demerara syrup in a shaker without ice. Shake very hard for at least 30 seconds. Add ice. Shake again for another 30 seconds. Pour 2 oz. of the Rebirth Pale Ale into the bottom of a Collins glass. Double strain the liquid from the shaker over the top.
The Randy Shandy
Recipe Courtesy of Randolph Beer, New York, NY
While the one you can sample at Randolph Beer is a bit more complicated in creation, the bartenders suggest having fun with this easier version at home.
1 oz. Ford’s Gin
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 oz. Simple Syrup
1/4 oz. Orange Blossom Honey
1 Dash of Grapefruit Bitters
Wheat Craft Beer
In a 16-oz. Collins glass, stir the gin, Lillet, simple syrup, honey and grapefruit bitters. Add ice and top with equal parts ginger beer and a premium, wheat craft beer.
The El Camino
Recipe Courtesy of William Johnson, Bar Manager of L’Abattoir, Vancouver, B.C.
The El Camino is the perfect summertime cocktail, featuring the flavours of the season: watermelon and tequila.
60 ml Watermelon-infused Reposado Tequila*
15 ml Campari
15 ml Fresh Lime Juice
10 ml Agave Syrup
90 ml Grapefruit Radler
Pour all ingredients into a Collins glass with ice. Garnish with a watermelon slice.
*To make infusion: Combine one bottle of tequila with three-quarters of a mini seedless watermelon in a blender and blend until smooth. Let the mixture sit for one hour in the fridge. Fine-strain the mixture and use it for up to one week. Keep refrigerated after use.