Among my closest friends, I’m always asked to choose the drinks. Although, yes, I have a lot of friends in the beverage industry who know the tastiest ways to get drunk, I also have many friends who don’t drink in their professional lives, so they turn to me to fuel the party. They provide a few spirits and their entire kitchens, and they let me get creative.
And creative I get.
Now that temperatures are rising and summer has arrived in mid-Missouri, the types of drinks I’m making are changing as well. Refreshment is necessary, so umami–the aspect of flavor that describes heartiness or meatiness–is typically avoided in anything meant to be sipped in the sun. Since we’re talking about beer, salty doesn’t really play into the equation (unless you use a gose, a sour style traditionally brewed with salt), so that leaves us with sweet, bitter, and sour to work with.
When mixing drinks, balance is key. If your drink is too sweet, you won’t want another one, and the bugs may get to it before you do; however, if the drink is too sour or bitter, drinkers may have one, but they won’t likely return. Granted, there are some people who like extreme flavors, but, more likely than not, they’ll end up turning to something milder after their palate is completely wrecked. That’s why I try to create a balanced drink in the first place: people will keep going back to it all night long, so you don’t have to get creative for subsequent rounds.
But flavor alone doesn’t determine how refreshing a drink is; its body also plays a role, and a drink’s carbonation has a lot of impact. The more bubbles a drink has, the lighter it will feel. This is because of how flavors don’t really have a chance to linger too long on the tongue, and anything that would normally coat the mouth is lifted. That’s why I aim for something effervescent when making summer cocktails.
And carbonation is easy to find in the world of beer, so I tend to lean towards quite a few beer cocktails for day drinking outside in the sun. Below, I’ve included a few of my favorite ones, so you can replicate them the next time you want something refreshing and delicious.
The Shock Tart
I have to be honest: I did not invent this drink. The shock tart was introduced to me one of the countless Jo(h)ns in the beer industry, but this particular Jon taught me a lot about beer when I was first becoming interested in it. What helped us get closer is that, like me, he prefers his beers to be more balanced and nuanced rather than in-your-face and intense. I told him I loved a certain Belgian beer, and he talked about how he visited that brewery a while ago, and I soaked it all up.
One day, I saw him take a glass and pour from three different taps. I asked him what he was doing, and he then told me about the shock tart: half cider, half sour beer, and a splash of framboise. He let me taste it, and once again, Jon confirmed how he seemed to just have an instinctual understanding of how flavors worked together. It was utterly delicious.
I forget the exact beers he used that particular night, but that’s the beauty of this mixed drink: it’s extremely flexible. You can pick whichever cider you want, whichever sour you want, and, hell, you could even leave out the framboise or trade it out for a kriek or some actual fruit juice or syrup. It can be adjusted to fit the flavor profile you need.
Since I’ve played around with this drink a lot, I’ve found there are a few things I prefer in my shock tarts. For one, I like to use a semi-dry or dry cider as the base, and it’s an easy way to ensure the sweetness won’t overpower the other flavors. Then, I usually don’t select an unbearably sour beer for my drink, and I tend to use a sour that already has fruit in it; the reason for this is because I hate to waste beer, and it’s nearly impossible to finish an entire bottle of framboise if you’re simply making cocktails with it.
Although I make shock tarts at home and as party pleasers, I usually drink them as my shift beer when I’m working. The appeal of this is simple: when I have to try all the beers separately to explain to customers, sometimes I want to enjoy something more unique. And I got the urge to create a take on a shock tart the other day at work.
I got the idea after grabbing yet another can of Avery Liliko’i Kepolo, which is a passion fruit witbier. This beer has a solid tart flavor from the passion fruit, but it’s balanced out nicely with the soft wheat flavors forming the backbone of the beer. It’s not technically a sour beer, but passion fruit is so naturally tart itself that it alone makes the beer puckering. This, I thought, could do well in a shock tart, so I filled my glass halfway with the beer (about 8oz).
The cider we had on draft was Shacksbury Dry Cider, and I felt it was a great addition to the Liliko’i Kepolo. The cider has a perfectly crisp mouthfeel, and the apple flavor is dainty and bright without too much residual sugar, making it very drinkable. I added some to the glass, and the fusion became extremely carbonated, forming a large 2-inch head. After I let it settle, there was only about 1.5 oz left in the glass, but this was all I needed.
More often than not, I leave out the framboise in a shock tart if I’m drinking it myself. The main reason for this is because I’m not the biggest fan of raspberries, but the high level of sweetness doesn’t help. This time around, though, we had Crooked Stave Petite Sour Raspberry on draft, and I couldn’t help myself. I topped my glass off with this juicy, not-too-sour beer, and my shock tart was created. The hint of raspberry and the passion fruit mixed beautifully, and the drink started sour and fruity; the cider’s dryness quickly cut through the more intense flavors, and the finish was refreshing and balanced.
A lot of people don’t realize that bartending can be exhausting. It is mentally and physically draining, and the hours can be quite long with very few–if any–breaks in between. Sometimes, you’re even a victim of the clopening (which is a portmanteau of “closing” and “opening” used to describe closing the bar down only to open it the next morning), and it’s easy to feel beat the fuck down when that happens. From this tired state of mind sprung the next drink, and it has everything a bartender needs before starting anew after a long, strenuous shift the night before: caffeine, alcohol, and vitamin C.
Making up more than half of this drink is a half liter (16.9oz) can of Stiegl Radler, a heavenly concoction that’s 40% beer and 60% grapefruit soda. Being my not so guilty pleasure, Stiegl Radler is extremely carbonated and tastes like pure juice, but it has a very low 2% ABV. That’s why I then add 2oz of gin to boost the alcohol content, but the hard liquor also cuts that carbonation significantly, negating the bitter carbonic bite the radler alone has.
Now, I know you’re wondering where in the hell is the caffeine going to come into play, and you’re going to have to trust me on this one. The final element of this drink is an entire 12oz can of Tropical Red Bull (the yellow can).
I know, I know, I hate Red Bull too. But, the yellow edition of it pretty much tastes like pineapple, and some subtle mango, banana, or papaya could be in there as well. When you take it and add it to the Stiegl-gin mixture, the grapefruit and tropical fruit work really well together, and the sweet yet somewhat bitter mixture is so bright that it tastes like summer. Every one of my friends loves this drink, and it’s perfect for when you’re sitting outside and looking for a refreshing sipper or when you need to kick some ass behind the bar.
When you’re day drinking and grilling, it’s easy to eat a lot of meat and carbs. To me, this sounds like perfection, but some of my friends are a little more conscious about what they eat. I’ve found the best way to find a compromise between wanting to eat something healthy but still indulging is to incorporate fresh fruit into the mixed drinks.
Creating boozy smoothies leaves a lot of room for experimentation and customization, and the best place to start is to pick two or three fruits that you love to eat together. I usually buy what’s on sale and use that as a starting point, and I’ve gathered pineapple, mango, and banana to work with today.
Since I’m working with such sweet fruits, I needed to add some contrast to the mixture, so the beer I’ve selected today is a big ol’ IPA: Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail with Mango and Orange. Clocking in at a whopping 12%, this double (triple?) IPA has a lot of bitterness at the forefront, but it becomes sweeter with the fruit notes emerging in the aftertaste. But it’s that huge punch of citrus and resin hop bitterness that I want to use in my drink.
Once blended with half a mango, half a banana, and 1/2 cup of pineapple chunks, the beer’s bitterness and the fruits’ sweetness find a happy medium. A resin hop flavor greets the tongue first, but then the creamy banana and bright pineapple flavors come in quickly to cut through the bitterness. It finishes with a heavy mango fruitiness with a hint of grassy hops.
And if you don’t think this is the perfect drink for sitting in the grass and basking in the sun, you’d be wrong.