Beer snobs and hops-loving purists might turn up their noses, but few things are more thirst-quenching on a hot summer day than a Shandy.
A drink that traces its roots back to 19th-century English pubs, a Shandy traditionally consists of half beer (typically a light lager of some sort) and a carbonated beverage topper like lemon soda or ginger ale. Making the original beer cocktail (or “beertail” for those who love a good portmanteau) is essentially foolproof and a good training-wheels exercise for anyone nervous about making their own cocktails at home.
What’s more, the possible variations are endless. Toying with the beer-to-soda ratio and playing around with various types of bubbly beverage make a whole world of options possible depending on personal preference. Western European countries have been serving up a variety of takes for centuries, from the French demi-peche (beer with a shot of peach syrup) to the Italian tango, which mixes beer with a gooseberry cordial.
In German-speaking countries, a play on a Shandy known as a Radler is a summertime staple, traditionally consisting of 50-50 beer and sparkling lemonade.
“Our radler is a combination of Radeberger pilsner and Sprite. Radeberger pilsner is a German beer from Radeberg, close to Dresden. You fill the glass one-third full with Sprite, then add Radeberger pilsner on top,” says Gloria Lee Friedrich of the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa and its Oleander Bar in Baden Baden, Germany. “An alternative twist is to mix the beer with Bionade, an organic fermented soda from Bavaria that has interesting flavors like elderberry, lemon bergamot and more.”
In the U.S., beer companies have capitalized on the Shandy’s seasonal appeal. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of commercial shandy offerings tripled, with the market swelling to even greater heights in the years since.
Below are four bar-based takes on the shandy, plus three styles you can find in your local beer aisle. Whether you’re popping a top or whipping up your own, let’s christen this year the Summer of Shandy.
This version of a Shandy has the added one-two punch of both Yellow and Green Chartreuse, creating an herbal depth to the drink that plays nicely with lager. This drink also serves as a stellar gateway cocktail for those still on the fence about Chartreuse, tiptoeing into all of the nuances of the botanically driven liqueur without overwhelming the palate.
Some Shandies go easy on the lemonade vibes. Others, like this one, embrace it with open arms. Ruby-red-infused vodka makes this drink a spirit-driven delight, while the peach bitters add a soothing dose of juiciness to round out the drink’s flavor profile. If you’re looking for a drink to serve at your next brunch, or batch into a punch for a party, look no further.
“The Demi Peche, is basically the French version of the classic Radler,” says bartender Thomas Thompson of Barrel Proof in New Orleans. “It’s best enjoyed with wheat beers or lagers.”
At Homeroom, they call this drink a “booze experiment,” but don’t let that dissuade you from making it. It’s the ideal drink to whip up for those completely green to mixing cocktails—no lab coat or protective eyewear required. If you’re feeling particularly mad scientist, add in an ounce of grenadine for a super summery cherry limeade experience.
Stiegl’s play on a German Radler skews heavily in favor of citrusy notes, with a blend of 40 percent Goldbräu lager and 60 percent grapefruit soda. Delightfully zippy, it’s refreshingly palatable and could prove to be a strong gateway drink for those skeptical about beer-based cocktails.
This drink’s effervescence is one of its most compelling features, with a 50-50 split between hefeweizen (a sparkling German wheat beer) and grapefruit juice. A more beer-forward beverage than many other Shandies and Radlers, this one is for the craft beer aficionado in your life.
A Rhode Island–heavy collaboration between Narragansett Brewing Company and beloved lemonade company Del’s, this Shandy is like sipping a boozy, fizzy lemon ice. It would be an ideal drink for sipping at the shore during a clambake.