Beer Cocktails

DB@Proposed by: David

Proposed by: Jonathan

Here are two reasons we both proposed drinks this week. First: I’ve been curious about beer cocktails (or “beer-tails”) for quite awhile and, since it may be some time before we revisit the style, it’s better to have two representatives instead of one.

Second: I don’t have any more Chartreuse. Jonathan’s choice—Last Call to Porter —requires Chartreuse, which I used to have, which people drank up at a cocktail party I hosted (because they never drink up the Crème de Menthe), and which is too expensive to replace.

Only the second reason is true.

But let’s pretend it’s really the first. Beer cocktails have been around forever—there are recipes for mixing beer with other ingredients from the 17th century—and a lot of people know the basic ones, like the Shandy (beer and lemonade) or a Liverpool Kiss (Guinness and Crème de Cassis), the Michelada (a sort-of beer Bloody Mary) or a Black Velvet (stout and champagne, beautifully layered to separate) or a Boilermaker (beer with a shot of whiskey, sometimes just plopped right in the pint glass). However, with the growing interest in the various styles of craft beer plus the growing interest in cocktails, bartenders are experimenting with other spirits—even gin!—and/or liqueurs.

A beer cocktail has certain advantages. Instead of extending volume with a soft drink or mixer, you complicate the flavors—in a good way—with beer. And, depending on the beer you use, the combination can be quite merrymaking. I started to say “potent,” but I’ve decided from now on that, today, “merrymaking” will be my synonym of choice.

Volume, however, can be a challenge. “When you’re working with beer, you’re dealing with longer drinks. You have to make sure that what you add accentuates the beer,” says Daniel Hyatt, bar manager at The Alembic Bar in San Francisco. The second challenge he identifies is, “Just getting people to drink it.”

He believes the key is finding cooperative flavors. Brown spirits—scotch, rye, bourbon, and all the whiskeys—pair well with ales, stouts, and porters, where gin and white ales might align for another alternative. Belgian beers, which can sometimes be herbal and merrymaking, go well with Tequila, and dark or spiced rum might work well with a lager. Some folks apparently use beer in creating syrups for mixed drinks, which is another way of introducing hops to a cocktail without making it too merry.

De Beauvoir

In deciding which beer-tail to try, I had many choices, including one popularized by the author of Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, called Hangman’s Blood that combines Guinness and gin, rum, whiskey, brandy, and port and then tops that with champagne. I thought about that one but decided it’s much too much merry to make.

So I found a drink called De Beauvoir (which I thought might be literary too but is actually a place) that won a beer cocktail contest in 2013 and uses smoked porter with Rye, Frangelico (no one at the party drank that either), plus a little sugar and lemon juice.

Here’s the recipe:

1 oz. Rye

2/3 oz. Frangelico

1/2 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

2 oz. Smoked Porter

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 dash Whiskey Barrel Bitters

The recipe calls for shaking these ingredients with ice and then fine straining them into a coupe glass garnished with orange peel. As I don’t like my beer shaken or diluted, I just combined them with a spoon. It worked.

Some quick notes: I tried this cocktail twice with two different porters, and I definitely preferred the smokier of the two because it balanced the sweetness best—as far as I’m concerned, the sugar is optional—it’s sweet enough without it. I couldn’t find Whiskey Barrel Bitters, which, as I communicated to my brother, was mighty disappointing, but I used Jerry Thomas bitters. They were nicely woody and smoky too. That’s what you want I think.

Last Call to Porter

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After two weeks where we discussed ideas for drinks and where we get those ideas, this week was a sourcing challenge. David suggested cocktails that incorporate beer. He provided a link that thoroughly reviewed the concept, and suggested some recipes, but he didn’t specify any cocktail in particular. That left a lot of latitude and a great deal of fun in finding a couple of contrasting ideas.

The first idea was the easiest. I get a weekly e-mail from The Splendid Table that spotlights a recipe and links a number of others. There is often a noveaux cocktail included with those links, and a couple of weeks ago it was one called the Last Call to Porter. Being considerate of my brother, and manipulative since I wanted to try it, I forwarded the e-mail with a strong suggestion that it might be appropriate for the next week. That was when I found out that David’s friends had liberated his Chartreuse one cocktail at a time. Fortunately, he suggested a category rather than a drink which left me, and my half bottle of Chartreuse, in business.

The Last Call to Porter is the invention of Katie Rose of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The drink was inspired by an historic, and in many ways tragic, event in England. In 1814 the Meux Brewery of London suffered a catastrophic event when a large vat of porter beer ruptured and in turn caused other vats to rupture. The resulting flood, there was an estimated 323,000 gallons let loose,  caused the tragic death of as many as nine individuals but also led some Londoners to head to the streets to capture the flowing porter with buckets.

Katie Rose’s cocktail combines the historic porter with bourbon and two liqueurs. Bourbon (she specifies 1 ounce Knob Creek) is combined with a half-ounce each of two monk made liqueurs – Green Chartreuse and Benedictine. Those are shaken with ice, strained into a coupe and topped with porter. She suggested a Milwaukee porter but I used People’s Porter (seems more fitting since the townspeople were most affected by the flood) from Winston-Salem, N.C.

The recipe sounds like a battle of flavors, especially since the two liqueurs have so many ingredients, but it is the Chartreuse and porter that shine through. Porter is so mellow and balanced from the roasted malts and the herbs of the liqueurs balance that perfectly. I am not sure where the bourbon fits in but the drink is smooth like a porter, and complex like a classic cocktail. Same admonition I often give though, this drink should be sipped.

I wanted a second beer cocktail that would contrast the herb heavy flavor and richness of the Last Call to Porter. That led me to a variation on the shandy which is often a summer cocktail. Typically a shandy is beer mixed with lemonade, ginger beer or a soft drink. They have become so common that there are a number of varieties pre-mixed and sold in the beer case.

I chose a shandy style cocktail called the Beer’s Knees which is a riff on the gin based cocktail the Bee’s Knees. A Bee’s Knees mixes gin, honey and lemon in a coupe while the Beer’s Knees is a mix of gin (1.5 oz.), lemon juice (1 oz.), honey syrup (1 oz.) and hefeweizen (3 oz.). Mix the first three ingredients, top with beer, add ice (or not if you so choose) and garnish with lemon. Since it is not summer anymore, unfortunately, I was used a hefeweizen style winter white ale from Bell’s to use in the recipe. Compared to the first drink, this one was a beautiful color, light and brisk thanks to the lemon. The honey offers slight sweetness in perfect combination with the lemon and wheat beer. This cocktail also kept me in good graces since it is a style of drink, and beer, that my wife enjoys much more than porter and herbed liqueurs.

Jonathan’s take: This week combines the old world and new, beer and cocktails, and a challenge to sources, all with a history lesson thrown in.

David’s Take: I loved the De Beauvoir—it was rich and warming, perfect for the season—and I’d recommend making it a double. You have to finish the porter anyway…

Next week (Proposed by Jonathan):

Last year, I had suggested a drink that could be served to the masses for Thanksgiving. This year I messed up and made that suggestion, Pear Bourbon Cider, two weeks too early. That won’t prevent me from mixing up a variation of the PBC (who knew TJ’s Pear Cinnamon sold out so quickly and I would have to use something else) for a house full on Thursday. That leaves a drink of the week, though, so my suggestion is the B-52. It is a blast from the past that is part shot and part dessert drink. It is also small enough to fit into whatever space is left after all of the gluttony. There are a great number of variations too, all with unique names, so guests can choose their own version.

 

Chartreuse Gin and Tonic

20140420_184918_resizedProposed by: Jonathan

Reviewed by: David

As the Jeff Goldblum character in The Big Chill tells us, the world is full of great rationalizations. One category of rationalizations is the adage of alcohol as medicine. The proposal this week was to use our newly acquired liqueur, Chartreuse, in a mix with gin and quinine, and each of those ingredients has been purported to have medicinal qualities.

The legend is that Chartreuse was not only created as a medicine, but as a way to prolong life. The monks who actually made it did so specifically for medicinal purposes. No doubt the popularity has led to production for other purposes, although even monks could be excused if they continue to rationalize that it is made for its curative properties.

There is no need to repeat the full history of gin, especially in this short form, but it’s also one filled with tales of the health benefits of gin and juniper. Ailments ranging from stomachaches to gout have been addressed with gin. In fact, the very popularity of the spirit in England is said to have begun with the observation that, if opposing soldiers drank it prior to battle, it calmed nerves.

One of the best, and most complete, histories of the use of juniper and making of gin is found in The Drunken Botanist. I’ve mentioned this book by Amy Stewart before, and it is a wonderfully detailed cataloging of the use of plants throughout history in the making of alcoholic beverages. The section on juniper and gin is a combination of history, anthropology, and botany. Once again, much of that also includes the medicinal principles applied to gin in general and juniper specifically. Read it for yourself so that the next time you crave gin, you can suggest the drink is only because you wish to “…thin any thick and viscous juices.” There’s a nice rationalization.

The last ingredient is quinine, which is also known for its health effects. Quinine is derived from the bark of the cinchona tree and has been used, among other things, for pain, inflammation, and most famously, malaria. Recipes for the classic gin and tonic range from high-end tonic water, that presumably contains the most quinine, to those made with whatever you can find on the grocery store shelf. I even read a few recipes for creating my own, but lacking a cinchona tree, I ignored those. My choice was Schweppes since our brother-in-law, Will, recommends it.

My original proposal was to create a Chartreuse, gin, and tonic. As it ended up, I did that to mixed effect (too much botanical) and then backed up to make the classic G & T with lime garnish, as well as, a Chartreuse and Tonic with mint garnish. The latter was an interesting substitute for the classic and the former its normal reliable cocktail. All of this, of course, was for my health.

Here’s David’s Review:g+t

I’ve had a few gin and tonics. I joked with one of Jonathan’s college friends that, wherever I went, I could get them to slip me a gin and tonic. That gas station and convenience store outside Carboro? Of course. The county courthouse you passed on the way to Fayetteville? You just needed to know who to ask. The concession at the mall multiplex? They were ready. You just had to put finger to nose and nod in just the right direction, no code words required.

To me, you can change gins and change tonics, and a gin and tonic still tastes like another gin and tonic. But add Chartreuse, and a gin and tonic isn’t one anymore. Chartreuse ain’t cheap, which should be abundantly clear by now, but it’s also quite distinctive in its effect (and potency, by the way). The bitter and botanical flavors of quinine and juniper meet a sort of a kind of an ally in Chartreuse, yet the Chartreuse adds a mellow and syrupy element that makes the cocktail smoother and sweeter, heavier than the typically crisp, summery, and refreshing gin and tonic.

I’m not sure this drink would ever replace gin and tonic for me. I liked it, but you need to enjoy Chartreuse to appreciate it. In the version my wife and I first tried, you would also need to enjoy lime juice. The half-ounce we added distanced the cocktail further from gin and tonics. To me, it was too much, the sugar in the fruit pushing the drink closer to a daiquiri than a cure for malaria.

As someone with a deep fear of malaria, I like my gin and tonics medicinal, more bitter than sweet.

In the second iteration of this cocktail, we used the mint we’d forgotten the first time and added only as much lime as we could squeeze from one quarter. I liked it better because the mint found an echo in the Chartreuse—I figure mint may be one of the 130 ingredients—and, if you happen to already have some Chartreuse on hand, I’d recommend that version.

A disclaimer, however: I am not recommending stopping at the county courthouse on the way to Fayetteville to ask for a Chartreuse, Gin, and Tonic. No amount of gestures and cryptic remarks are likely to get you one. In fact, you could very well be arrested and/or sent summarily to the nearest mental health facility. You might also have your mettle questioned, which, as every gin and tonic drinker knows, is untenable.

Jonathan’s take: The idea to use Chartreuse was a great excuse to revisit a classic.

David’s take: As a variation, wonderful, but I’m going to keep experimenting with Chartreuse. I’m not sure we’ve found its best use yet.

Next Week (proposed by David):

One of Jonathan’s best friends (and a fan of this blog) is visiting Chicago next weekend, and my wife and I are looking forward to sharing dinner with him and wife. I’ve chosen a restaurant with a nice cocktail list, so I’ve suggested that Jonathan and his wife go find a place for cocktails in Charlotte. Who knows what we’ll try (or retry), but putting our fate in the hands of a professional mixologist will be a nice change… and maybe spare us (and our budgets) another bottle of something odd in our liquor cabinets.

The Last Word

this oneProposed by: David

Reviewed by: Jonathan

Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof features a bar moment where one patron asks another, “What is that you’re drinking?” His answer: “”Chartreuse, the only liqueur so good they named a color after it.”

I confess my chief interest in The Last Word was Chartreuse. As a visual artist, I’m fascinated with color, and chartreuse is one of my favorites, a slightly gray green, but spring green not evergreen or hunter. The idea that a color comes from liqueur intrigued me, as did its history, which goes back to a secret recipe of 130 herbs, plants, and flowers given to Carthusian Monks in 1605. Chartreuse appeared commercially in 1764, which is, oh, only 250 years ago.

But, I confess, my choice was self-indulgent and not terribly considerate because, first, my brother Jonathan is color-blind (and who knows how he sees chartreuse) and second, this shit is expensive! When I visited the liquor store to buy it, I immediately emailed my brother with an apology, which I’ll make again publically now.

Sorry Jonathan, I wish I’d looked at the price before choosing it.

At least this cocktailian adventure has history to recommend it. The Last Word is a drink with recent antiquity too, invented during prohibition in Detroit, the entry point for much of the Midwest’s bootlegging—Canada was, as always, much more sensible during those years—and, at first, the drink enjoyed considerable popularity.

The Last Word largely disappeared, however, until returning in Seattle, at the Zig-Zag Café when bartender Murray Stenson found it in Bottoms Up! Ted Saucier’s 1951 bar guide. Possibly the color recommended it most, as the combination of lime and Chartreuse is a charmingly watery green, in evening light almost luminescent. Chartreuse, after all, is the drink of vampires and turns their eyes a lurid shade.

You hear me. I’m trying to sell it, working to justify the expense and trouble. Maybe I shouldn’t try so hard…

So here’s the recipe:

  • 3/4 ounce gin
  • 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4 ounce green Chartreuse

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, and shake briskly for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

colorHere’s Jonathan’s Review:

The laws that govern alcohol sales in North Carolina are bizarre to say the least. First, there are still plenty of dry (no sales of alcohol whatsoever) cities and counties. Even some counties that are fairly urban are still dry with sales of any type of spirit permitted only within the cities. On-premise sales typically include beer, wine and liquor, though not always all of them. Off-premise sales allow beer and wine to be purchased from private stores while hard liquor must be obtained in state owned ABC stores.

The fun part used to be the customer service philosophy of those state run stores. When I was first of legal age, shopping for alcohol was an uncomfortable experience. The workers were trained, or so it seemed, to bring an enforcement and puritanical attitude that asked the unspoken questions “Are you old enough and do you really need that demon alcohol?” That attitude, luckily, has changed and workers are now helpful and friendly although they are still limited in the information they provide.

Why is this important? Depending on the drink and its ingredients, I try to decide if the nearby ABC store or the more helpful SC stores are my best bet. The only part of this cocktail that I did not have was the proprietal Chartreuse, so I decided that there was no need for advice nor a real cost advantage to going south. The last part, of course, based on an assumption that the 3 monks who hold the secret recipe for Chartreuse are also hard and fast capitalists who make you pay for that closely held information. Boy was I right on that one.

David compared this drink in his introduction to the Aviation. That is a fair comparison, I think, with one exception – I really liked this one. The first part that is similar to the Aviation is the amount of alcohol in the drink. The Chartreuse by itself is higher proof than the gin, and the only non-alcoholic part of the mix is the lime. The other part that is reminiscent is the odd color. The mix of chartreuse and the deep red of the maraschino give this cocktail an odd pomegranate color, or so my more color adept wife tells me. The biggest difference was the background herbal flavors of both the liqueur and the gin which mixed perfectly. The citrus of the lime, and oil from the garnish, was a nice counterpoint to that. Add in a beautiful spring day, and this was a relaxing aperitif to sip the afternoon away.

Jonathan’s take: The color and herbal depth made this different and unique. This one was worth the monk-determined value.

David’s Take: Pleasure mixed with guilt—I guess pleasure wins. As precious as Chartreuse is, it tastes good. Can’t help scratching my head over our two drinks’ color difference… but what else is new?

Next week (proposed by Jonathan):

I feel the need for a drink that celebrates spring and the approaching warmth of summer. Of course, I also feel the need to use my newly acquired Chartreuse. There are recipes for Chartreuse and tonic, but since the liqueur goes so well with gin and lime, I am proposing that we make a standard gin and tonic but split the gin with an equal amount of Chartreuse. Add some mint leaves and celebrate.