If you want an unfussy drink that knows how to get the job done, go old-school with a Boilermaker. This straightforward whiskey and beer concoction, wherein the whiskey is dropped into the beer, found favor in the 1800s among factory workers—possibly those who fabricated the boilers of locomotive engines, hence the name. After coming off long, exhausting shifts, they understandably wanted a strong end to their day. That’s a nice origin story, and it may be the advent of the glass-in-a-glass combination. But it’s likely that people have been combining liquor and beer in some fashion ever since the two drinks entered ready circulation.
There’s no rule saying which type of beer you should choose when making a Boilermaker, and clearly this isn’t an elaborate, thoughtful cocktail. So, the standard advice applies: Choose whatever you like to drink. However, certain liquors do pair better with certain beers. A classic bourbon or rye whiskey works well with a light lager, while bold Irish whiskeys enjoy the extra flavor of an IPA. Whiskey in general is the classic choice when drinking Boilermakers, but many bars serve a lineup of different beer-and-shot pairings. Don’t sleep on tequila dropped into a Mexican lager, or herbal, bitter amari (or malty genever) served with a crisp pilsner. Your options are plentiful and worth exploring.
Those options extend to drinking process itself, as there are multiple ways to down a Boilermaker. Typically, you fill a pint glass halfway with beer, drop a shot straight into the glass, and then slam the contents in one go. It’s a fun way to consume a drink, especially if you’re with a lively group of like-minded friends. But you can also dump the liquor into the beer, keeping the shot glass out of your pint. Or serve the beer and shot separately, shooting the liquor and then chasing it with the beer. Each method results in you quickly consuming both drinks, so it’s a matter of personal preference. Order a Boilermaker at your local dive, and the barkeep is almost certainly going to serve the two drinks separately. It’s then on you to choose your own adventure.
Of course, you can also just pour a beer and a shot and drink them side-by-side, at your leisure, no dropping or chugging required. That’s not a Boilermaker, but it is an undeniably fine way to go.
1 ounce whiskey (usually bourbon or rye)
8 ounces beer
Pour the whiskey into a shot glass.
Fill a pint glass halfway with beer.
Drop the shot glass into the beer.