These days, any brunch place worth its salt serves a michelada alongside the requisite Bloody Mary, and my beer-loving heart thrills to see it on menus. But when I'm out at picnics or tailgates and don't have a full spice cabinet on hand — or when I'm feeling a little lazy on a summer afternoon — I like to go the old-timers' route with my tomato cocktails and mix up a Bloody Beer instead.
Depending on what part of the country you hail from, you might know this two-ingredient cocktail as a red beer, red rooster, red-eye, or just tomato beer. The nomenclature varies from Oregon to Texas to Nebraska to Calgary, but the idea remains the same. As these names imply, it's often touted as a hangover cure, but I've found a bloody beer goes down easy as a happy hour starter too.
As with any drink involving tomato juice, it's a love-it-or-hate-it deal, but those whose preferences fall on the savory side of the spectrum will dig it just fine. Sub in Bloody Mary mix or Clamato, or keep it simple and authentic with just beer and tomato juice.
The key to this easygoing drink is to use a beer that doesn't show off. No double IPAs that give you a mouthful of resiny citrus, no milk stouts that parade a palate of roasted coffee and chocolate, and no rich and raisiny Belgian dubbels. Stick with crisp and clean lagers like helles or pilsners that don't overwhelm the distinctive taste of tomato.
As in a michelada, you can't go wrong with a classic Mexican lager like Sol, Tecate, or Dos Equis for a bloody beer, but chances are that your favorite regional summer lawnmower beer will be a great match. I'm a Pittsburgher who's prone to topping my drink off with IC Light, but Chicagoans may want to stick with Old Style, while other Midwestern nostalgists can reach for a Hamm's.
Want to fancy it up just a tad? Try Maryland-based Flying Dog's Dead Rise, a summer seasonal brewed with a surprisingly appealing hint of Old Bay seasoning.
Makes 2 drinks
1 (6-ounce) can tomato juice
2 (12-ounce) cans or bottles lager beer — use your favorite
Shake the can of tomato juice and divide evenly between two pint glasses. Do not shake the beer (heh) — pour it into the tomato juice in each glass to combine. Drink up.
(Image credits: Casey Barber)