Wednesday Food: Mixology and the Beer Cocktail
Ashley Routson, aka the Beer Wench, just launched a new website at beermixology.com, devoted to the crafting of beer cocktails. The site is a collaborative effort intending to provide more resources and recipes to help demystify this unconventional refreshment. The Huffington Post provides an immediate response.
But the beer cocktail isn’t really a new concept, and over the past few years we’ve seen it come onto the scene, only to quickly vanish. Esquire featured it in 2010 (although those recipes mostly just sweetened average beer), and last spring the New York Times followed Borough bars to see who listed beer cocktails on their menu. I first came across a Michelada in Brooklyn, November of 2010, and couldn’t get through half of it (naturally I was devastated as beer and hot sauce, independently, are two of my favorite things).
Many of the drinks of Beer Cocktails Past have been mixes that essentially diluted or flavored the beer: the traditional Shandy combining ale and soda; or the previously mentioned Michelada made from lager, lime, tomato, and hot sauce. The new beer cocktail, hopefully the one with staying-power, uses quality hard alcohol that compliments whatever beer it joins. It is not meant to overshadow flavors or make drinkable that which is not. It is meant to harmonize and highlight features of each component to achieve a well-balanced, innovative drink. I’m keen to think of it like a proper food pairing– the flavors of one develop those of the other.
Opinions are heated as to whether this marriage is a bastardization of a finished product, or whether the combination provides an innovative vehicle for the consumption of well-made booze. There is also a question of respect to the brewers and distillers, who worked hard to produce something that is then manipulated by the consumer. Many beer enthusiasts rant against adding a citrus wedge to a wheat beer– imagine what they would say about sugar, vodka, and half a lime. While I wouldn’t dream of mucking about with a Kentucky Breakfast Stout or George T. Stagg, I am happy to experiment with more affordable, more available selections.
But the only way to form a tasteful opinion, literally, is to get to the kitchen and fix up a drink. From the beermixology website I selected the Shake Radler Roll for its masterly blend of citrus and ginger with witbier. It also allows me to highlight two elements of my backyard that I have yet to feature: lime and orange. You can check out the recipe on the website, but here are the ingredients I used:
- 2 ounces navel orange-infused vodka
- 1/2 ounce ginger simple syrup
- juice from half a lime
- 4 ounces Flying Dog’s Woody Creek (any witbier or golden ale)
Simply shake the first three ingredients with ice, pour over rocks, and top with beer. Garnish with citrus peel.
I selected Flying Dog Woody Creek for its mellow flavor profile and low alcohol content (adding two ounces of vodka to a 7% beer would have me pink in the face and giggling for days). Combined with a navel orange vodka infusion I had on hand, the resulting drink is the picture of a warm, sunny day, fit for January Santa Ana winds.
Citrus is the strongest flavor present, imparted by the orange peel and addition of lime juice, but there is a significant floral nose, and toward the end a warming sensation from the ginger syrup. I would characterize the cocktail as more bitter than sweet– perhaps due to my homemade infusion. The addition of the witbier in lieu of a soda or tonic is inspired. Soft sweetness from the malt tempers the vodka, the carbonation adds body and volume, and the beer is responsible for all the subtle aromatics.
NOTE: I haven’t had a cocktail shaker the last few weeks, I have three collecting dust in storage and can’t justify buying another, but improvised with my Kleen Kanteen. The metal body provides a hard surface for breaking up ice, without risking chips and cracks in your pint glasses.
Where do you stand on the debate? Is perfection better left untouched? Or is bliss found only by bringing together two good things?
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