Beer Cocktails: The Best of Both Worlds

Beer and liquor don't mix. Or at least, that's what you've been told. But what about beer and liquor...in the same glass? That's right. The latest craze to sweep the world of innovative bartending is 'beertails'. The next time you're tailgating, or just kicking back with a brew after work, consider one of these beer-and-something-else mixes.

As strange as it may seem to us, there's actually a long history of combining beer with other stuff, often to mask the flavor of bad beer. You may have made a primitive version of a beer cocktail when you crammed those little limes into the neck of your Corona. There's also the Shandy (beer and ginger ale or lemonade), popular in England, and the Michelada (beer and tomato juice), popular with our southern neighbors (and with those nursing a hangover the morning after). These variants have been around for years, but it's only recently that mixologists have fully embraced the idea of mixing beer into full-fledged cocktails, along with liquor. This article in the New York Times describes some combinations that sound especially tempting (beer, bourbon, lemon juice, and maple syrup) and others that sounds especially horrifying (beer, scotch, grapefruit juice and pickle brine).

But why, exactly? Aren't beer and cocktails happy staring each other down from opposite ends of the bar? For one thing, adding beer to a cocktail delivers a bit of fizz, without watering the drink down like club soda would. Its yeastiness balances and mellows excessive sweetness. And the recently renewed interest in craft cocktails means that bartenders everywhere are trying to come up with something new and different. When you add beer to the list of potential ingredients, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Fortunately, you don't need to work behind the stick at a craft cocktail joint to enjoy dressing up your beer a little. Here are a few options.

Images, from left to right:
1. My own creation, the Redneck Mother, with Lone Star, sloe gin, grapefruit, and ginger beer.
2. The Black Velvet, an unlikely mix of Guiness and champagne created upon the death of Prince Albert in 1861.
3. An unnamed beer cocktail with coconut porter and coconut milk.
4. Beer and gin make nice. The Wheat & Mint, from Club 50 in Miami.
5. The Gringo, with pale ale, tequila, grapefruit, and elderflower liqueur.

Nancy Mitchell loves beer on the river, after work, or in a cocktail. Find more recipes and boozy musings on her blog, The Backyard Bartender.

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