Better-than-Champagne Recipe: Fizzy Citrus & Beer Pitcher Cocktail

updated May 1, 2019
Fizzy Citrus & Beer Pitcher Cocktail
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(Image credit: Casey Barber)

It’s a sad, sad tale, and one that’s no doubt caused a few New Year’s tears over the years — being saddled with an allergy to Champagne and feeling a little left out during the Auld Lang Syne toast.

That’s the case for one of my very dear friends, with whom we’ve been ringing in the New Year for the past decade. While he’s content to raise a bottle of Sam Adams in lieu of a Champagne flute, this year I’ve decided to give him something special and bubbly that mimics the festive feel of a sparkling wine without the pounding headaches. (Spoiler alert: It involves beer!)

You can pick a lambic that’s been fermented with fruit, like the widely available Lindemans lineup of apple, cherry, peach, raspberry, and cassis, or you can go straight with a gueuze, which is a fruit-free, sour blend of pure lambic beer. Gueuze tends to be a little more puckery, so keep that in mind — I’m particularly fond of The Bruery’s Rueuze.

Pair that sour Belgian beer with a dry hard cider — sparkling or still, either is fine, as long as it’s crisp and verging on truly dry instead of sweet. I’m a huge fan of everything from the small-batch New Hampshire cidery Farnum Hill, as well as the unfiltered French-style Lapinette from Michigan’s Virtue Cider.

For the crowning touch, Meyer lemon simple syrup brightens everything out with a hint of lush perfumed citrus, and a Meyer lemon sugar rim is appropriately festive. Seriously, who needs Champagne anyway?

Fizzy Citrus & Beer Pitcher Cocktail

Serves 12

Nutritional Info


  • 2

    Meyer lemons

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided

  • 1

    (25-ounce/750-milliliter) bottle lambic beer

  • 1

    (25-ounce/750-milliliter) bottle dry cider


For the Meyer lemon sugar for rimming the glasses:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Zest one of the Meyer lemons, preferably with a fine-toothed zester like a Microplane. Pulse the lemon zest in a mini food processor with 1/4 cup granulated sugar for about 15 seconds to release the zest's natural oils.

  2. Pour the sugar onto a small rimmed baking sheet and shake gently to spread the sugar out evenly across the pan. Place the pan in the oven and turn the oven off. Let the sugar dry in the oven for 30 minutes.

  3. Pour the sugar into a shallow bowl for rimming the glasses. Leftover sugar can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

For the Meyer lemon simple syrup:

  1. Juice the Meyer lemons, including the one you zested for the sugar. You should have about 1/4 cup juice.

  2. Whisk 1/3 cup granulated sugar together with 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid comes to a simmer and the sugar is fully dissolved. Pour the syrup into a heat-safe bowl and cool to room temperature. Once cool, stir in the Meyer lemon juice. This syrup can be stored in a lidded jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

For the cocktails:

  1. For each cocktail, wet the rim of a Champagne flute or coupe with a damp paper towel, then dip into the sugar.

  2. To make a batch cocktail: Combine the lambic, cider, and citrus-infused simple syrup in a pitcher. Stir gently to combine.

  3. To make individual cocktails: Pour 1/4 cup lambic, 1/4 cup cider, and 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon simple syrup into each sugar-rimmed glass.