If the words ‘beer’ and ‘cocktail’ said concurrently makes you wince, we urge you to reconsider. Quality beer is nuanced while having lots of body, making it a great product for adding length and flavour to a spirit-based drink. The key to success is identifying the main flavours of your brew, then complementing them with other additions to build a punchy drink that’ll quench a thirst in fine fashion. If you're looking for even more creative drinks recipes and drinks inspiration, check out our drinks hub.
If you’re still not convinced, read on to discover our tasting notes, recipe ideas and how to avoid mixology mayhem.
What beer to use
This all depends on how confident you are in your beer knowledge. Lager is a safe bet as it’s fairly neutral and has the kind of sprightly tingle that gives a long cocktail a boost. If you really want to keep things simple, go for a shandy – it is a blended beer drink after all. Start using a 50:50 ratio, blending your lager with cloudy lemonade, a combination of citrus juice and soda or blood orange aranciata.
Heavily-hopped IPA usually comes loaded with lots of different flavour notes, most typically citrus, herbal, floral or bitter. There's no hard and fast rule here, so identify the strongest characteristic and match it with spirits accordingly – a citrusy IPA would work well with a lemon or orange-tinged spirit, while something herbal may work with a botanical gin. We really like American-style IPAs with tonnes of carbonation and body, so if you can, pick up something from a small, experimental craft brewery.
Treat hazy wheat beer in much the same way – it’s not hopped like IPA, but its flavour comes from aromatics, and you'll usually find it tastes bitter, smoky, herby and lemony, so create your cocktail recipe accordingly. When it comes to dark and broody stout, with roasted and toasted flavours abound its best matched with flavours like rich chocolate and deep coffee when creating your blend.
What not to mix
When I hit the Good Food Test Kitchen to create some snappy blends with projects editor Miriam, we identified a number of drink-based disasters. Firstly, unless you like drinking cold gravy, don’t mix stout with tomato juice – the result is a murky, savoury blend that wouldn’t even make the grade at a rugby initiation ceremony. Avoid creamy spirits like the plague, as we think you’ll agree curdled cocktails are the absolute pits. And don’t get too clever and start contrasting flavours – you’re likely to waste a bottle of good beer and a few shots of spirits, so think smart and keep things mellow. Learn how to match beer with food with our simple guide and create some perfect pairings.
To shake or not to shake?
The key to any good cocktail is thorough blending, especially if you’re adding things like sugar, spice and whole fruit. But, just in case you needed it spelling out, vigorously shaking a carbonated drink is only going to end in the mop coming out, so ignore James Bond and stir away, or shake your base spirit with juice then slowly add the beer afterwards.
Five quick and simple beer cocktails
Miriam’s tried-and-tested cocktails are rainbow bright and super-tasty – you might even be able to get away with serving them to beer haters. We tailored the glassware to suit the contents, but if you don’t have any available, serve them in a tumbler or a short rocks glass.
1. Spiked michelada
Takes: 15 mins
Pour the juice of 1 lime into a small bowl, then brush a little of the lime juice around the rim of a glass, tankard or tumbler. Tip 1 tbsp sea salt onto a plate, then carefully dip the rim of the tankard into the salt to coat it. Fill the glass with a handful of ice cubes then add 1 tbsp tequila and the remaining lime juice. Stir gently, then slowly pour in 330ml lager. Top with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and garnish with a slice of lime. Try our classic michelada recipe for an instant crowd-pleaser.
2. Espresso stout
Takes: 5 mins plus chilling
Pour 25ml cold espresso into a small jug and add 25ml coffee liqueur. Stir and place in the fridge along with two tall, thin pilsner glasses or a slim tumbler. Chill for 30 mins or until really cold, then divide 250ml stout between the two glasses. Slowly divide the chilled espresso mix between the glasses and serve immediately.
3. Posh ginger shandy
Takes: 10 mins
Put a handful of ice into a large cocktail shaker and add the juice of 2 lemons, 1 tsp ginger cordial and 1 tbsp ginger wine. Shake the cocktail shaker until the outside feels cold and looks frosted. Divide the mixture between two large martini glasses or short tumblers and top with 250ml wheat beer and garnish with ginger matchsticks.
4. Campari IPA
Takes: 5 mins
Take two rocks glasses and put 2-3 ice cubes in each one. Divide 50ml Campari between the glasses and top with 300ml IPA. Add a splash of sparkling orange juice and rub a piece of orange peel around the rim of each glass before dropping into the drink.
5. Raspberry beer mojito
Takes: 5 mins
Take two tall highball glasses and divide 1 chopped lime and 50ml spiced rum between them. Muddle them together with a muddling stick or the handle of a wooden spoon to release a little of the lime juice into the rum. Add ice then bruise a small bunch of mint leaves by holding them in the palm of one hand then hitting them with the other like a clap. Sprinkle the mint leaves into the glasses then divide 330ml raspberry beer between them. Garnish with a few raspberries and serve.
Check out even more delicious content
What's your favourite beer cocktail? Leave a comment below. We have more traditional drinkspiration in our cocktail section, too.