We all know what a spritz is – we’ll happily pour Champagne and Prosecco into our cocktails to give it a bit of dryness and fizz. It’s classy, it’s cool, but it’s a slightly expensive way to drink.
And yet when I mention doing the same with beer, people screw up their faces. They envision me on a street corner pouring whisky into my Special Brew wrapped in brown paper. Admittedly, the world’s first beer cocktail, the Dog’s Nose, wasn’t far off.
Beer cocktails are a prickly issue, even in the world of craft beer. Many beer experts I love and respect aren’t sold on them. Luckily, our friends at Drinks Tube are more open minded, and some of the best cocktails I have ever had are beer based – and it’s easy to see why.
Let me explain – more than any drink in the world, beer is a canvas. It’s not a blank one, because it always has certain flavours and characteristics from the malt, yeast and hops. But you can still paint on it. You use that canvas to paint things you can’t with any other – you use fruit to make it sweet and sour, you use chocolate to make it deep and bitter, you use spices to make it floral and complex. I cannot stress enough; beer can be taken as far as you want.
And that means that, if you pick the right ingredients, there is no limit to beer cocktails. If you ever go to Jamie’s pop-up diner in London (sorry international readers!) make sure you get the pale ale margarita – it is easily the best cocktail on the menu and shows just how versatile beer is. You can add twists to a classic, like our beer gin fizz, where our homemade Jaipur IPA syrup adds sweetness and a hoppy kick. You can come up with something entirely new, like our literally smoking Halloween cocktail, where smoked bacon and Scotch whisky fuses perfectly with the sweet Beavertown pumpkin beer. Or you can come up with something seriously classy, like our espresso-beer martini, made light and frothy by the carbonation in Dark Star’s coffee stout.
Beer cocktails are a real missed opportunity in restaurants and bars all over the world. Some countries are better, and know that a beer can be given a new lease of life with a little bit of loving – ask any Mexican beer drinker about their beloved Michelada.
What’s more, any barman I’ve ever asked about beer cocktails has reacted like he’s been waiting for someone to ask him. They usually have something up their sleeve that they love doing. Because let’s face it, they must drink beer – you can’t sup spirits all the time!
So, if you want to give a cocktail night a twist, have a go with beer as a mixer and let us know what happens.