Purists have long disdained the union of sud and spirit, yet innovative bartenders across the country forge on with such experimentation, tapping into an ever-growing diversity of offerings in the craft brewing world. And while the classic beer-and-lemonade Shandy is an easy fix on a sweltering summer day, a beer cocktail done right can be a beautiful, complex thing, typically light in alcohol content but layered with big flavors. Make the most of the end of summer with these nine beer cocktails.
Presentation is key at Jamie Boudreau’s vintage cocktail bar—stained with Angostura bitters, fitted with an old-timey cash register and decked head-to-toe in bottles—and the drinks are of course no exception. In this photogenic goes-down-easy sipper, blanco tequila is shaken with house-made grenadine, watermelon juice and a splash of fresh lemon, then served over crushed ice in a whimsical light bulb. But the real eureka moment comes in the form of Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, a heavily hopped, malty brew that offsets the naturally fruity flavors.
It’s no surprise that bar woman Yael Vengroff, the foremost champion of frat party favorite Fireball cinnamon whisky, would pay homage to another collegiate booze go-to in her play on the ’80s cocktail Surfer on Acid. At this Hollywood cocktail lounge meets game parlor, Vengroff soothes Jägermeister with heirloom peach liqueur, lemon and cardamom bitters in a spiced yet floral elixir, all topped off with the tropically accented Mr. Pineapple wheat beer from SanTan Brewing Company.
3. Strange Rumblings in Aztlán (The Rose, Jackson, Wyo.)
Created by Laura Keeler at Alex Day and Dave Kaplan’s cocktail bar within downtown Jackson’s Pink Garter Theatre, this warm-weather concoction takes its name from an iconic 1971 Rolling Stone article about the Chicano rights movement and community following the death of journalist Rubén Salazar. Cruzan white rum is sloshed with pineapple shrub and nutty orgeat syrup and finished with locally brewed Melvin IPA in a pilsner glass. The incendiary nature of the story is reflected in the drink’s garnish, a flamed grapefruit peel.
This recently opened cocktail bar and kitchen offers trumped-up pub grub from wd~50 alum chef Jon Bignelli along with cocktails by a trio of drink veterans, Tim Cooper (GoldBar), Leo DeGroff (Sweetwater Social) and Eryn Reece (Death & Co). For her take on a beer cocktail, Reece employs Chile’s aromatic Kappa pisco as the backbone, brightening it with Aperol and raspberry and lime juices and garnishing the glass with a salt rim. The final touch is a splash of Stiegl grapefruit radler, an easy-drinking blend of the mildly hoppy Stiegl-Goldbräu and a grapefruit soda.
Election season is fast approaching, and this Mission District cocktail bar is serving up a tall, refreshing glass of Hope that comes with a repurposed Barack Obama campaign pin. The recipe calls for Evan Williams bottled-in-bond bourbon, layered with classic Luxardo cherry liqueur, pineapple and lemon juices and served in a Collins glass. Topping off the patriotic pour is the fittingly named Liberty Ale, a bubbly dry-hopped American IPA from San Francisco’s homegrown favorite Anchor Brewing Co.
Tucked in the basement of the landmark Thalia Hall, William Duncan’s maritime-inspired bar celebrates fruity punches in renditions both classic and contemporary. In the latter category is bar manager Bob Begandy’s blanco tequila and mezcal number, sloshed with tepache (a Mexican street drink made from pineapple rinds), lime juice and drops of orange bitters. The beer of choice here is the quirky 5 Rabbit 5 Lizard, a classic Belgian witbier tweaked with coriander, lime peel and passion fruit puree added to the fermenters.
At this Latin restaurant helmed by James Beard semifinalist Mike Randolph, a Peru-meets-Midwest–themed dinner event became an opportunity for bartender Nick Digiovanni to create a drink that involved a fun element. Now permanently on the menu, this Bellini riff employs a charred mango and pisco coulis as the base, swapping out Champagne for 4 Hands Brewing Co.’s hoppy City Wide American pale ale.
It doesn’t get more Texan than this: At the new, upscale icehouse occupying what was once a gas station in the Heights, bargoers can wash down street-style tacos and nachos con queso with a lemon-laced refresher by manager Julie Rogers. Fruit-forward Kinsman apricot rakia, a European-style brandy produced by San Antonio’s boutique Dorćol Distilling Company, is tempered with fresh lemon, a house-made lemon oleo saccharum syrup and Boulevard Brewing Co.’s grassy Tank 7 farmhouse ale.
The classic Bloody Mary gets a boisterous Asian-inflected rendition at this Westwood farm-to-table eatery courtesy general manager and wine director Alicia Kemper. The drink starts with a house-made Bloody mix fusing tomato juice and briny kimchi with Worcestershire sauce, lime, sriracha, rice wine vinegar and fish sauce in an umami-blasted combination. It’s topped off with good ol’ Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and garnished with a Maldon salt and black sesame rim and shiso leaf.