In my last I Tried It, I wrote about trying three beer cocktails for the first(ish) time: a snakebite from Wooden Robot and Red Clay Ciderworks, a two beer mixture from NoDa Brewing Company, and a coffee-beer mash up from Starbucks. This week, I tried my hand at creating my own beer cocktails and even managed to include some liquor in them.
Beer Cocktail #4: Half & Half, AKA Black & Tan
Beer: Guinness Irish Dry Stout and Harp Lager (also owned by Guinness)
How to Make It: equal parts of each beer
Notable Facts: “Black and Tans” was the nickname given to the British auxiliary police force, known as the Royal Irish Constabulary, during the Irish nationalist movement that followed World War I. Since the war had just ended, there were not enough uniforms for the police force and so their uniforms were a mix of khaki service dress and dark constabulary uniforms. Between July 1920 and July 1921, this police force committed several atrocities against the Irish, such as massacring civilians and burning towns. Thus, the term “black and tan” is considered deprecatory in Ireland and the term “half and half” is preferred when ordering this beer cocktail.
The Verdict: I hadn't had a Half & Half before and found it to be interesting. I'm not opposed to drinking another one again but found the one I made to be a little metallic. However, the metallic flavor could have also come from the spoon over which I poured the Guinness. According to people who are better at pouring beer over spoons, pouring Guinness over a spoon will make the beer go down the sides of the glass and effectively sit on top of the lager, giving you the cool black on top of tan effect. I had no such luck.
Notable Facts: Whiskey sours have maritime roots. An English Vice Admiral began mixing together sailors’ rations of lemons and limes with liquor, which was safer to drink than water in those days, in an effort to prevent scurvy, malnutrition, and sea sickness. The first recipe for a whiskey sour was published in The Bartender’s Guide by Jerry Thomas in 1862.
The Verdict: As I mentioned before, I'm not a mixed drink fan mostly because I'm really not all that familiar with liquor, what it tastes like, and what mixes well with it. While I can certainly understand and appreciate the skill and artistry needed to make a really great cocktail, I found the process of measuring everything out to be a little tedious. I mean with beer, there's not much involved in preparing it for drinking - choose a (proper) glass, open the beer, and pour the beer into the glass. I do enjoy cooking from scratch, though, so I can see making cocktails getting easier if I take the time to do it more often.
The drink itself was nice and tart, with a pronounced whiskey and lemon flavor. My husband tasted it and proclaimed it to be "definitely a mixed drink." I didn't taste the white ale in it very much but still enjoyed it. For this recipe, I feel like the addition of the white ale was just to make it technically a beer cocktail. However, as I learned from Ashley Routson in this piece from Paste, the biggest decision in making a beer cocktail is deciding whether to make the liquor or the beer to stand out. With this cocktail, the liquor definitely stood out while the beer got a little lost in the mix.
Notable Facts: The Bee’s Knees cocktail originated during Prohibition and gains its onymous name from the phrase “bee’s knees,” meaning “the best.” The addition of citrus and honey was to cover up the taste and smell of the bathtub gin used to make the cocktail.
The Verdict: This cocktail highlighted the hefeweizen much better than the Weissen Sour highlighted the white ale, probably because the beer is added after the other ingredients have been shaken and then strained into the glass. The cocktail had a lot of hefe flavor while still showing off the gin (which I love because I'm an 80-year-old woman inside) as well as the honey and lemon. It almost tasted like it could be one of the good kinds of holistic cough syrup, which is way more of a compliment than it sounds like. This cocktail was also quite a bit easier to mix so it felt like far less effort and I didn't have to Google what a bar spoon is like I did with the Weissen Sour (guess what - it's a teaspoon).
I'll probably still stick to mostly beer, but will give beer cocktails a whirl when I see them offered places. For the next installment of my beer cocktail series, I'm going to put what I've learned so far to the test by trying to create my own beer cocktails.