Marla Cimini on August 24, 2016 0 Comments Expert Bartenders & Mixologists Spill Their Secrets to Sipping & Creating Beer Cocktails From lagers to IPAs, beer cocktails are emerging on the scene in a multitude of bars across the US, bursting with sweet, citrusy and unexpected flavors. Cocktail lovers are finding that these distinctive beer beverages are overflowing with complex notes and robust, intriguing tastes, blending an array of spirits with favorite brews. We asked four expert bartenders to provide their unique insight into the world of beer cocktails and offer suggestions and tips for customers who wish to order these frothy and thirst-quenching beverages. (Note: some of these answers have been edited for space). Jonathan Pogash: The Cocktail Guru Jonathan Pogash is the owner and founder of the Cocktail Guru Inc., a worldwide beverage consulting firm for bars, restaurants and spirit brands. As one of the pioneers in the world of cocktails, you may recognize him from his many television or radio appearances, or perhaps from one of his recipes that grace the menus of lounges around the world. I got the chance to pick his brain and here’s what he had to say about utilizing beer into his cocktail recipes. What is your favorite beer cocktail? I love a great classic Michelada. It is essentially a beer-based, lighter alternative to the traditional Bloody Mary. Personally, I like spiking mine with a touch of Van Gogh vodka! What new trends are on the rise with beer cocktails? I’m seeing craft beer brands getting in on the trend by proposing their various beer styles, such as IPAs, fruit beer, etc. to be used in beer-based cocktails. Not only are these beers being used as a “float” or “topper,” but we are seeing them as the primary ingredient (more than 4 oz. or so) in these cocktails. By utilizing unique “modifiers” in beer cocktails, like flavored vodka (my favorites in beer cocktails happen to be Van Gogh’s cool peach along with melon), mixologists are stepping up their cocktail game. Utilizing fresh fruit like raspberries, blackberries and pineapple, the cocktails are becoming more unique than ever. And bartenders are using fresh herbs too, like sage, rosemary and thyme. What type of beer cocktails do you enjoy making the most? Recently, I did a beer-based cocktail at a seasonal cocktail lounge in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, called Beetlebung. The drink, called the Bishop Haven, has white rum, elderflower liqueur, IPA, fresh lime juice, ginger syrup and fresh raspberries. Full disclosure – I am not sure if it’s still on the menu, but it’s an extremely tasty drink. Also, the Acai-Blueberry Beer Cooler cocktail is pretty outrageous. It’s refreshing, balanced, and simple to make. Here’s the recipe: RECIPE: Acai-Blueberry Beer Cooler 2 oz. Van Gogh Acai-Blueberry vodka 5 raspberries 1 1/2 oz. good quality lemonade 4 oz. India Pale Ale Directions: Shake all ingredients, except for the beer. Strain over ice into a highball glass. Top with the beer and stir briefly. Garnish: Mint sprig and raspberries. How do you educate your customers about beer cocktails? I’ve done a series of beer festivals across the U.S that reach nearly 5,000 consumers each, so education is key when it comes to beer cocktails. I start off by mentioning the obvious beer cocktails we know and love, like a Shandy. You take that basic concept and build on it. Or, you make a basic cocktail, like a mojito, and instead of topping it off with club soda, you use beer instead. This is education in the simplest form. Obviously, we all know there’s more to a beer cocktail than just topping off a mojito. What should you “not” do when making a beer cocktail? Do not shake a cocktail with beer in it — you’ll want to simply top it off at the end or add it to an already shaken cocktail and gently stir it (not too much — otherwise that will eliminate the bubbles). What do you think surprises people the most about beer cocktails? The versatility of beer — and how well it can pair with practically any flavor. I’ve had great success in my experimenting with various styles of beer. Simply subbing out various beer styles in the same cocktail will create a brand new cocktail that is unique and multi-dimensional. Don’t be afraid to try it out and play around. That’s the best part! Photo courtesy of Sable Kitchen & Bar Mike Jones Mike Jones is the head bartender of the Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago, IL. Rated one of the “Best Bars in America” by Esquire Magazine, Jones not only focuses on building a unique cocktail list for patrons, but he also leads the charge for Sable’s craft beer program. His beer cocktail recipes have been featured in many publications and are well-known throughout Chicago. I recently got the opportunity to pick his brain, here’s what he had to say. What’s new with beer cocktails? Beer cocktails are not really new, but their popularity is on the rise, especially since we have hit our hot summer months, which calls for lighter and more refreshing cocktails. Also, I think bartenders everywhere are picking up on the trend to boost flavor but lower the impact… basically experimenting with lower proof cocktails to add to our menus. After all, it’s no fun to go out for an evening and not be able to hang with the crowd after a few drinks because they packed such a punch. Low proof cocktails have arrived — and are here to stay. What beer cocktails are on your menu? We are currently featuring five different beer cocktails and we have dedicated an entire page of our summer menu for them. Each offers completely different tastes: Raddler Square is light and bright with bitter, herbaceous notes; Bohemian Blvd is refreshing with surprising savory notes. The Bitterson Park offers big fruit notes followed by bold bitter finish, while the E.W. Park and Field: savory, fruity and somewhat dark in its depth of flavors. Finally, the Misunderstood cocktail is light and refreshing with big notes of spice and smoke. Are your customers excited to try beer cocktails? It’s a delicate balance to explain the cocktail and sell it. Many people shy away from beer cocktails because it is unknown to them. Encouragement and reassurance helps them to be adventurous. Once they’ve taken the leap, most understand — and the light bulb is turned on. It’s exciting to watch! I find that even those that say they don’t drink beer or don’t like beer can easily become converts when a beer cocktail is well executed. Photo courtesy of Brandon’s Palm Beach & Tideline Resort Ivan Ramirez Ivan Ramirez is the Lead bartender at Brandon’s Palm Beach, at Tideline Resort and a Kimpton Hotel. With a focus on every ingredient for which he crafts his cocktails, Ramirez frequently visits farmer’s markets in search of unique and locally-grown flavors to help him give you experience the true essence of Florida with every sip. Here’s what he had to say about beer cocktails. What type of beer cocktails are you currently serving? Here at Brandon’s, I make a kind of mimosa on steroids – called a Manmosa. It is fortified with gin, ginger liquor and grapefruit beer. Another great beer cocktail I have on the menu is the Tamarind Pulp (Fiction), which I make with sweet tamarind infused sherry wine, apple juice, tamarind simple syrup and hard cider. How do you encourage your customers to try beer cocktails? I tell my customers that the craft beer and the craft cocktail worlds are the perfect combination. Between craft brewers and craft cocktail bartenders, there is so much creativity and freedom to create that perfect cocktail. What do you suggest for first-time beer cocktail drinkers? Get out of your comfort zone and try something new! There are a lot of talented bartenders that are doing amazing things with beers out there. It will blow your mind. Pick your favorite drink and ask for suggestions on how to upgrade your cocktail with beer, according to flavor pairings. Finally – don’t ask for a frozen beer cocktail. Your bartender will appreciate it! What do you wish everyone knew about beer cocktails? At Brandon’s, we are a little spoiled being right on the beach. With that being said, any beer cocktail, well crafted, will have a very refreshing taste or twist, instead of a heavy or hard to drink feeling. The carbonation plays a big roll, helping to open up all the flavor notes and making it a true experience — more than just having a drink. Photo courtesy of Outpost Chris Burmeister Chris Burmeister, the lead bartender of Outpost in Goleta, CA., makes it a point to seek out the freshest ingredients and make them the foundation for his entire cocktail menu. He was kind enough to share his thoughts about his process and how customers are responding to his unique recipes. What are your favorite beer cocktails? I love any type of beer cocktail utilizing IPA and grapefruit, which is a solid, natural pairing. Riffs on a Paloma or Hemingway cocktail work great with IPA. Also wit bier is great with stone fruit flavored and rum or gin. Spiced rum also works well with a wheat based beer and fresh plum or apricot. What beer cocktail is currently on your menu? The Buckshot is a riff on a rye buck, with Bulleit rye, ginger syrup, honey, fresh lime – all topped with Union Jack IPA. How do you teach your customers about beer cocktails? I think the easiest way is to just inform them of how it impacts the structure and taste. Beer usually adds effervescence — like soda, tonic or champagne, with just a different flavor profile. The malty, hoppy or bitter notes of beer can act like a modifier, just as a liqueur or amaro would in a cocktail normally. How do you inspire people to try beer cocktails? Have an open mind and try something new! I suggest that they try something that is in their wheelhouse of spirit preference — as well as beer preference. Also, cocktails with citrus are usually more approachable for most first timers. Start there if you’re hesitant. What do you think surprises people the most about beer cocktails? They’re delicious! Beer and spirits work great together… it’s like drinking a beer and a shot in one glass. It requires less work — or the need for two hands!