of today’s beers—from basic lagers to roasty stouts and sour Belgian ales—is explored and tapped as a resource for making an innovative and delicious array of cocktails.
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Beer cocktails are often treated like a modern trend, but the idea of mixing with beer is pretty much as old as beer itself. Since long before (and after) the Reinheitsgebot — the famous German "beer purity law" of the fifteenth century that restricted lager brewers to using only barley, hops, water, and eventually yeast — people have made beer with all sorts of stuff.
Many historic ale and beer recipes would have never passed muster under Reinheitsgebot. The earliest Egyptian beers were so thick with grains and herbs that they had to be consumed through a straw. In more recent centuries, oats or rye meal often stood in for barley.
Brewers by necessity regularly supplemented grains with other forms of fermentable sugar, often molasses. Herbs and spices like sage, spruce, and cloves were used for flavor. Bicarbonate of soda could be added to stale beer to liven it up with carbonation. Or consider Cock Ale, a recipe from 1780, that called for the blood of an old rooster: "Slay, caw, and gut him, and stamp in a stone mortar. Add spice and put all in a canvas bag. Lower him into the ale while still working. Finish working and bottle." Contemporary beers brewed with sea urchins, bull testicles, or doughnuts (to name three recent examples from American brewers) don't seem that crazy by comparison.
Early American colonists drank ale, cider, and spirits in abundance. Even the children were in on it. An eighteenth-century almanac advised feeding kids a meal of brown bread, cheese, and warm beer. And if a child was sick, they could be cured with a dose of "admirable and most famous Snail water," a cure that sounds more frightening than most diseases. Garden snails were washed in beer, baked in an oven, and crushed in a mortar. To these crushed dried snails were added 1 quart of sliced earthworms; a variety of herbs, roots, and flowers; and then finally 3 gallons of strong ale. After sitting overnight, 2 spoonfuls of this concoction mixed with 4 spoonfuls of beer would be fed to the ailing child. It was certainly an incentive to get better.
Though I tried many unusual recipes while researching this book, I'll confess that I let the snail water pass without a taste test. Adventurous readers can look up the recipe in Alice Morse Earle's Customs and Fashions in Old New England and let me know if I'm missing out.
The point is, drinks that combine beer and other ingredients go back centuries. Though they wouldn't have been called "cocktails" then — that word was reserved specifically for drinks made with spirits, sugar, water, and bitters — these drinks certainly fit our looser modern definition of the word.
These beverages tended to be simpler than what one might find on a fancy modern cocktail menu. They combined locally popular beer styles with other available ingredients, such as a shandy containing ale and ginger beer or a punch containing porter and rum. Other drinks used liqueurs, spices, or citrus to add flavor to straightforward lagers.
Many of the recipes that follow call for English-style ales. For a few suggestions for beers that work particularly well in these vintage recipes, see this page.
Some of the drinks in this chapter are likely familiar and continue to be served today. Others are largely forgotten and deserving of revival. All of them belie their simplicity with a finely tuned balance of flavors.
1 oz. whiskey or genever Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg Approximately ½ tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
Pour the whiskey or genever into a large beer glass, grate in the nutmeg, and add the ginger. Top with the ale and cider, stir gently to combine, and serve.
Our exploration of vintage beer cocktails starts with a Bang. This drink is recorded in Robert Kemp Philp's 1860 book The Practical Housewife. It's a simple combination of the alcoholic beverages Americans would have had in abundance in the 1800s. Here's the original recipe:
Take a pint of cider, and add to a pint of warm ale; sweeten with treacle or sugar to taste, grate in some nutmeg and ginger, and add a wineglassful of gin or whiskey.
Refrigeration is cheaper now than it was in the 1800s, so I'd suggest ignoring the instruction to serve it warm and omitting the sugar. A mild English-style ale and a dry cider, both well chilled, work perfectly here. The gin from this period would likely mean genever, the malty, whiskeylike ancestor of gin imported from Holland. For the whiskey, I would choose a good, mid-priced bourbon. Though not traditional, a quality aged rum with some character could also be used.
The Bang is similar to the modern Snakebite, a 50/50 mix of cider and beer. That's a fine drink, but adding whiskey or genever and a little bit of spice gives it greater depth. If you double the recipe below, a standard American 12-ounce bottle each of cider and beer will make enough for two without any going to waste.
1 qt. (960 ml) ale
Combine all the ingredients in a punch bowl, finishing with a generous grating of nutmeg. Slip a large ice block into the bowl and ladle the punch into tumblers or punch glasses, or serve it over large ice cubes in individual glasses.
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups (400 g) sugar
Combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the orange flower water, transfer the syrup to a bottle, seal, and refrigerate. It should keep for several weeks.
Makes about 2 cups (480 ml)
If asked to nominate the most influential bartender of all time, many mixologists today would no doubt choose Jerry Thomas. Thomas traveled the world and worked his way up to becoming America's first celebrity bartender, holding court at the best bars in New York and San Francisco during the golden age of cocktails in the mid-1800s.
He accomplished much more than that, though. When his book, Bar-Tender's Guide, was published in 1862, he achieved something that no one before had attempted: He took the arcane knowledge of how to mix drinks, passed down from professional to professional, and presented it in an organized, accessible format. He classified the great variety of drinks that had become fashionable by their common elements in sensible categories: juleps, fizzes, collinses, cocktails, punches, and more. Thomas's book became an essential guide and has been published in various editions and plagiarized for decades.
Beer appears in only a few of the recipes in Bar-Tender's Guide, including the Ale Sangaree (this page), the Flip (this page), and this Ale Punch that uses a mild, English-style ale as the main ingredient; the readily available Old Speckled Hen is an excellent and affordable choice. The punch is easy to make, refreshing, and perfect for a party when you don't want to be stuck mixing individual cocktails.
The one tricky ingredient is capillaire. This originated as an allegedly medicinal infusion of maidenhair fern, a syrup I've only once come across for sale commercially (look for xarope de capile if you happen to be in Portugal). It evolved into a rich sugar syrup subtly characterized by an orange aroma. It may not have many curative qualities this way, but it's a tasty addition to punch and saves the trouble of tracking down good maidenhair fern.
1 tsp. sugar
In a beer glass, dissolve the sugar in a splash of ale or water, muddling it, if necessary, to help it along. Top it with the ale and grate a little nutmeg over the surface of the drink.
Nowadays, if a patron walks into a brewpub and asks to have sugar and nutmeg added to his beer, he may receive a dubious glare from the brewmaster. But a couple of centuries ago, these ingredients formed a very popular beverage known as the Ale Sangaree.
Sangaree, like contemporary sangria, derives from sangre, Spanish for "blood." Cocktail historian Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh traces the drink's roots to Spain and the Antilles islands (to their brothels, specifically), where it began life as a single serving of punch made with Indonesian arrack, a rumlike spirit distilled from sugar cane and red rice. By the 1800s, the drink had adopted multiple guises combining various alcoholic ingredients with sugar and nutmeg, with fortified wine from Madeira being one of the most popular. Jerry Thomas's definitive Bar Tender's Guide included six different versions of sangaree, made with port, sherry, brandy, gin, ale, and porter.
The Port Wine Sangaree was the most popular of these in Thomas's day, though even by then the drink was on the wane. The ale version merits attention too. Though not the most complicated of drinks, its simplicity is pleasing. Choose a mild English or Scottish ale and a sugar with some character, such as Demerara or turbinado. To make a Porter Sangaree or "Porteree," follow the procedure below but substitute porter for ale.
1 oz. orange brandy liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
Pour the liqueur and lemon juice into your "favourite tankard" (as Mr. Dickens recommends) along with a few large chunks of ice, then top with the ale and ginger beer. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with the lemon peel.
Though this book is mostly dedicated to mixing beer with spirits, some of the world's most popular beer drinks are created by mixing beer with nonalcoholic ingredients. The best known of these are Germany's radler, England's shandy, and France's panaché, all made by mixing light, effervescent beers in approximately equal volume with ginger beer or sparkling lemonade. These drinks are tasty and refreshing, and have the added virtue of being "sessionable" — meaning one can enjoy a few of them without being overcome by the effects of alcohol.
The origins of the shandy are lost to history, though it was known well enough to be referenced in The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an 1853 novel about a freshman at Oxford. Mr. Green states in the book that a friend taught him "to make shandygaff and sherry-cobbler, and brew bishop and egg flip: oh, it's capital!"
The etymology of the shandygaff is equally mysterious, though Evan Morris speculates in his syndicated Word Detective column that it may derive from a combination of words basically meaning "loud nonsense." It certainly fits the image of someone who's had a few too many of the drinks, but no one knows for sure.
What we do know is that it's a very tasty drink. The variation here is adapted from a recipe in Drinking with Dickens, a wonderful book by Charles Dickens's great-grandson Cedric about old English drinking culture. The addition of orange liqueur makes this a little less sessionable, but I like the flavor it contributes.
1/3 cup (75 g) packed brown sugar
In a bowl, dissolve the brown sugar in the water. Add the lemon slices and let them infuse for 15 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and serve over large ice cubes in tumblers or punch glasses.
Oxford University's guide to "famous Oxonians" boasts 26 prime ministers, 50 Nobel Prize winners, 12 saints, and 120 Olympic medalists.
The long list stretches from Stephen Hawking in the present day to William Ockham in the fourteenth century.
Mysteriously absent from the list is Richard Cook, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for preserving one of the university's most important contributions to culture: the impressive variety of recipes its students relied upon to get drunk.
Cook published the first edition of his Oxford Night Caps in 1835. The 1871 edition has been recently reprinted, and it's a treasure trove of historic drinks and drinking traditions.
Take the Oxford Grace Cup, for example. This was a combination of beer and wine made in a vessel large enough for an entire party to sip from. The first imbiber would make a toast "to Church and King" while the guests at his right and left stood by his side. The Grace Cup would then make its way around the table, each person sipping from it while the two at his sides stood watch.
The practice was said to derive from when England was invaded by the Danes, "who frequently used to stab or cut the throats of the natives while they were drinking, the persons standing being the sureties that the one holding the cup should come to no harm while partaking of it."
Hopefully one's own guests can be trusted to refrain from violence. If entertaining a group, I recommend making another of the drinks recorded in Cook's collection, the Brown Betty, "said to have derived its name from one of the fair sex."
Cook writes that it is good either hot or cold, though I lean toward the latter. Use a good English ale, such as Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome or Abbot Ale.
BLOW MY SKULL
¾ cup (130 g) coarse sugar, preferably Demerara
In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in the boiling water. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and refrigerate for several hours. When ready to serve, slip a large block of ice into the bowl. (If a block of ice is unavailable, add ice to cups individually.) Ladle the punch into cups to serve.
As I began researching this book, one of the people I reached out to for inspiration was drink historian David Wondrich, author of the indispensable books Imbibe! and Punch. I knew that if anyone could alert me to some esoteric recipe that I'd overlooked, David would be the one. I asked him if anything came to mind, and he directed me right away to this corker. It has bold flavors from high-proof Jamaican pot-still rum, smoothed out nicely by the deft use of dark porter.
This drink comes from The English and Australian Cookery Book: Cookery for the Many, As Well as the Upper Ten Thousand. Published in 1864 by Edward Abbott, a member of the Tasmanian Parliament, it is considered Australia's first cookbook. In addition to standard English fare, it includes local delicacies such as roast wombat and "slippery bob," a dish comprised of kangaroo brains fried in emu fat. We'll stick to the drinks.
Abbott's drink chapter covers much of the same ground as other English-language drink books of the day, but one entry that stands out as unique is the aptly named Blow My Skull. According to Abbott, this was the favorite drink of an eccentric Tasmanian governor who possessed "a stronger head than most of his subordinates." The governor hosted banquets at which he would serve barbecued pig and a cask of this punch. Attendees feared being challenged to go drink for drink with him:
"No heel taps!" called out the governor in a voice of authority, and the unfortunate stranger was at once hors de combat while the governor having an impenetrable cranium, and an iron frame, could take several goblets of the alcoholic fluid, and walk away as lithe and happy as possible, attended by an orderly who could scarcely preserve his equilibrium.
"Heel taps," by the way, is slang for a small amount of liquor left in glasses after drinking.
A drink with this reputation deserves a big, burly rum like Smith & Cross from Jamaica; for the brandy, use something cheap and strong.
Salt, for the glass rim Lime wedge or wheel, for garnish
Pour some salt onto a small plate wide enough to accommodate the rim of a beer glass. Moisten the rim of the glass with the lime wedge or wheel and coat it with the salt. Fill the glass about halfway with ice. Combine the lime juice, hot sauce, and Maggi in the glass, adding the beer last. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with the lime wedge.
I fondly remember my first experience drinking a Michelada, if not so much the night that came before it. I was on a trip to Tequila, Mexico, with a group of West Coast bartenders. We had an overnight flight on Halloween taking us from San Francisco to Guadalajara, and so the evening leading up to departure was spent enjoying San Francisco cocktail bars in our costumes. Then we managed to pour through two bottles of tequila and one of Fernet-Branca just on the short bus ride to the airport. It's a miracle we all managed to board the plane — and, indeed, one of us didn't.
When we arrived in Mexico the next morning, dressed like superheroes and hungover like mere mortals, we promptly sought out the hair of the dog that bit us. Collapsed into a poolside hammock, I was gradually restored to life by a frosty glass of Michelada: lager, lime juice, and spices, served over ice in a chalice with a salted rim.
Excerpted from "Cocktails on Tap"
Copyright © 2015 Jacob Grier.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Stephen Beaumont 6
Reviving the Beer Cocktail 9
Seven Styles of Beer Cocktails 14
Mixing 101: Tools and Techniques 17
Beer and Spirit Styles 25
A Note on Sous Vide 26
A Note On Authenticity 27
Chapter 1 Vintage Drinks A Collection Of Drinks Utilizing Beer, Spanning Several Centuries of Recipes 28
Chapter 2 Hot Helpers: An adventure into the Forgotten world of Heated Concoctions 52
Chapter 3 Contemporary Cocktails A Selection of Modern Beer Cocktails from Many of Today's Best Bartenders 80
Books and Websites 150
Selected Bars 153
Beer and Classic Cocktail Index 159