Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WTF... is a Beer Cocktail?

It's a mixed beer drink, duh. Okay, that is not exactly fair and not really descriptive. In fact, the term has only become a term in my life recently.  While strictly speaking, it should only count for adding distilled spirits, I think that the term is a little more loose.

The earliest beer cocktail is one that my Polish Grandmother would drink. It was considered a ladies' drink and consisted of Canadian lager, tomato juice and salt. Sometimes, if someone was being fancy, they would add Clamato juice. Looking up this classic on the internet shows claims of this being Mexican or some American city. I think that this is probably one of those things that has cropped up in many cultures at once.

The next one that I remember is beer and lemonade or iced tea. Yeah, I know the Coors Light Iced Tea thing has been circulating the internet but it was a thing a long time ago. Call it a shandy.

The next one is one of my favourites. It is a simple addition of Ribena into beer.

I have had fancy ones based on Delerium Tremens and recently been experimenting with whiskeys and ginger beer specifically ryes and bourbons.

The big question is why ruin beer by adding anything?  Well, I suppose there are three reasons to add something to beer.
1. to save a bad or bland beer.  You got a lager you hate or a beer that you are just meh about, then do something. Most beers of this time end up in cooking for me. But like saving wine by turning it into a Sangria, you can always turn beer into a cocktail.
2. to enhance a flavour profile.  Sometimes if an element is added to a drink, it can enhance and lift it up. I find that adding the Ribena to a lager highlights the malty elements and makes lagers make more sense to me. Also, adding salt to a sour beer can make that pucker even more prominent.
3. make a whole new delicious thing.  While I did not entirely enjoy the Delerium Tremens cocktail I had a Le Canard Mort in Toronto, it was a thing unto its own. When tasting one of these concoctions, invariably made by a mixologist, there is a sense of what they were trying to accomplish - normally marrying two main ingredients to lift both sets into something greater.  Reminds me of great cocktails such things as an old fashioned or a sidecar. You can taste something of the original elements but what you have is something better.

Try mixing your own but just remember for every classic there are the B-52s and Blowjobs and tons of justly forgotten shooters and cocktails. Have fun.

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