Beer cocktails gaining popularity

The first time I saw a beer cocktail was as a teenager in Jersey at a spot called Crazy Ellis' Hideaway, down by the river near my home town.

If you happened to be at Crazy Ellis' around 4 in the afternoon, you made sure you weren't sitting on any of the regulars' stools when they rolled in, still in work clothes. The cocktail of choice for several of these gentlemen was the Boilermaker, the recipe for which is: shot of cheap whiskey; mug of beer; drop shot glass with whiskey into beer; drink swiftly.

The beer cocktail, like beer itself, has a come a long way from the Boilermaker.

Of course, certain beer cocktails have always been with us. The Black and Tan combines pale ale and a darker beer. I've written before about the Black Velvet, a mix of stout and Champagne. Years ago, in Mexico, I was introduced to the Michelada, a cerveza preparada in which lime juice, hot sauce and Worcestershire are added to Mexican beers and the concoction is sipped from a glass with a salted rim.

What's different about the new wave of beer cocktails is twofold. First, bartenders are boldly adding spirits (beyond cheap whiskey) to the mix. Gina Chersevani at PS 7's in Washington, D.C., had the Cure on her menu last year: Miller High Life, lemon juice and Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur. Second, as the variety of interesting beers grows, so do the mixing possibilities. You can do a whole lot more fascinating pairings with an oatmeal stout or a black beer than you can with Bud Light.

"Beer adds complexity to a drink as well as effervescence, depth, flavor," said Rachel Sergi, head bartender at Againn in D.C.

Sergi's favorite cocktail beers are white ales, and I was surprised by how well they worked with spirits such as rum and brandy. She even suggests substituting white ale for wine in sangria recipes. White ales such as Allagash and Hitachino Nest are natural pairings with citrus. So it makes sense that they taste great mixed with orange liqueur, muddled citrus and orange bitters in the Oranj-a-Bloom, which is my new hot-afternoon drink.

Even more complex is the Saint, which calls for schwarzbier, or black beer, to be floated atop a combination of Old Tom gin, St-Germain elderflower liqueur and Earl Grey tea-infused vermouth.

One thing is for certain: Ordering the Saint at Crazy Ellis' back in the day surely would have gotten you thrown out, or worse. Thank goodness the world — at least at the bar — continues to evolve.

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Oranj-a-Bloom

Ice cubes

2 lemon wedges

2 lime wedges

2 orange slices, plus more for garnish

10 mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish

3/4 ounce ginger syrup

3 dashes orange bitters

1 1/2 ounces gold rum

1/2 ounce orange liqueur, preferably Cointreau or Combier

4 to 5 ounces white beer (see note)

Place 5 or 6 ice cubes in a pint glass.

Combine the citrus pieces, mint, ginger syrup and bitters in a mixing glass, then muddle.

Add the rum and orange liqueur; stir vigorously. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer twice, into the pint glass. Add the beer to fill. Garnish with an orange slice and a mint sprig.

To make ginger syrup, combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 12 coin-sized slices of ginger root in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a slow, rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a glass container and let cool to room temperature. Discard the ginger slices. It's ready to use, but for best flavor, cover tightly and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours; store indefinitely.

Note: This recipe calls for a Belgian-style white beer, preferably Allagash, but other brands such as Hoegaarden or even Hitachino Nest from Japan work well. Any gold rum will do.

Source: Rachel Sergi, head bartender at Againn restaurant in Washington, D.C.

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The Saint

Ice, both cubes and crushed

1 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur

1 ounce Old Tom gin

1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Dolin Rouge, Martini & Rossi or Cinzano, infused with Earl Grey tea

2 ounces schwarzbier or dark lager

Lemon slice, for garnish

To infuse the vermouth, steep 1 tea bag of Earl Gray tea in 1 cup of sweet vermouth for 15 minutes. Discard the tea bag. Cover and refrigerate the infused vermouth for up to 1 week.

To make the drink, combine ice cubes, St-Germain, Old Tom gin, lemon juice and vermouth in a mixing glass; stir vigorously.

Fill a Collins glass with crushed ice. Add the stirred mixture (but not the ice), stopping 1 1/2 inches from the top of the glass. Gently pour the schwarzbier or dark lager on top to fill the glass. Garnish with the lemon slice. Allow guests to stir the drink after the initial presentation, to incorporate.

Note: This drink should have a layered look, with black on top and gold on the bottom. It was created the day after this year's Super Bowl in honor of the champion New Orleans Saints.

Source: Rachel Sergi, head bartender at Againn restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Beer cocktails gaining popularity 05/11/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 10, 2010 6:20pm]

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