The best of both worlds
Stay cool this summer with beer cocktails
Is there a red-blooded American alive for whom the summer months do not bring dreams of searing lesser animals over an open flame? The earthy wafts of browned bits, spicy smoke, and the sweetness of lovingly concocted sauces. Informing the flavors and aromas of this feted feast is that most noble and time-honored companion in American culture: beer.
And just as beer has undergone a transformation from uninspired pseudo-lagers to a sophisticated range of microbrewery-produced porters, ales, stouts, and malts, so, too, have cocktails evolved. It was inevitable that bartenders would use beer as the base for a cocktail. The result: what is popularly known as a beer “shandy.”
Traditionally speaking, shandies only refer to beer combined with a carbonated beverage. But increasingly, the pirate-esque name “shandy” is being used for all sorts of delightful, convincingly alcoholic beverages.
Behind the inconspicuous Del Monte Lodge Renaissance Rochester Hotel & Spa in the village of Pittsford there is the Erie Grill, where white-stained woods and glossy marble bar tops evoke the airy, seafar- ing styles of Caribbean resort hotels. The bar also features a shandy of equal breeziness, the State of Mind. First, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, simple syrup, lemon juice, peach schnapps, and a couple dashes of hot sauce are mixed together. Over this is poured Kölsch, a light German beer.This cocktail is heavy on the floral notes and the beer doesn’t impose on the rest of the drink, making it a perfect choice for someone who is still training their beer palate.
Elsewhere, in the cave-like cool and moody darkness of Victoire on East Avenue, where handle-bar mustachioed bartenders serve The Apple Bottom: Blackbird Hard Cider, Jameson Irish Whiskey, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, and Fee Brothers aromatic bitters. Between Jameson’s spicy malted barley and the bitters, there’s just enough complexity to keep the sweetness of the cider and Canton in check.What results is complex but sparkly; refreshing on a hot day but drawing apple pie flavors and cooler climes of fall.
At Zeppa Bistro in the South Wedge there’s a regularly served drink called the Bourbon and Beer Martini. This amalgamation is a deep dive into rich, spicy flavors, boasting Maker’s Mark bourbon, maple syrup, chili-infused simple syrup, and lemon juice, topped off with Guin- ness stout.The Guinness gives the drinker something to “chew on,” while the maple and Maker’s conspire to bring out those lesser-appreciated sugar and caramel notes reminiscent of a brulée. The introduction of lemon and water in the mix make this a surprisingly light sipper.
The king of beer cocktails in Rochester is TRATA, located in the Culver Road Armory, with a menu of no less than six beer cocktails—from oatmeal stout to pêche. The Corporal’s Breakfast is a belly full of Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout and Bulleit Bourbon with a slice of bacon draped over the side of the glass.This cocktail is for brunch-goers who mean business.The oatmeal stout is creamy and sweet with hints of vanilla. The Bulleit is spicy and bold, adding a lot of back-of-the-palate woody, savory tones. The bacon is, well, bacon, and works as an aromatic. Top that off with a mushroom Swiss burger from the menu, and there’s no excuse for leaving hungry.
Tom Belknap is a writer, musician, and developer who lives and works in the Rochester area. His blog, DragonFlyEye.net, explores science and technology news in upstate New York.