I’m not a beer snob. At the right place and time, I can easily enjoy a quenching PBR tallboy, a creamy pint of Guinness or a puckering Belgian sour ale. For some reason, though, I’ve never really cared for anything mixed with my beer.
Sure, a very long time ago, I was inspired by Ringo’s antics in the Beatles movie “Help” and thought it was cool to belly up to the bar at a pub and order a lager and lime — usually a Harp with a shot of Rose’s lime juice. And a couple of times I’ve tried out that Mexican concoction called the michelada, which can be a bit like a spicy beer Bloody Mary. But that was about it.
Then something happened that changed my way of thinking. I started noticing how many smart bartenders were using beer to make really interesting cocktails. And an even bigger moment of enlightenment came when I realized that the beer wasn’t being flavored so much as being used as another ingredient for flavor and texture in these drinks.
Recently, while I was working on a story about summer cocktails, I checked out my reasoning with Lara Creasy, beverage director for No. 246, JCT Kitchen & Bar and the Optimist. Creasy may be the Atlanta bartender most dedicated to using beer in cocktails.
“I almost always try to put a beer cocktail on my menu, because I happen to really like them,” Creasy said. “I think beer is a fine mixer. It’s like using a soda, because it has texture and effervescence.
“Depending on what you’re using, you can bring in wildly different flavors, like bitter or spicy. It’s really easy to add fruit elements and fortify it with a spirit and the next thing you know, you have a really awesome cocktail.”
One of Creasy’s current creations at the Optimist, the new coastal-style restaurant in west Midtown, is called the Beach Shanty. It’s a mix of Allagash White ale, Brinley’s Shipwreck spiced rum, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, velvet falernum and bitters.
“Being a Belgian-style white, the beer has that influence of coriander and orange peel,” Creasy said. “The spiced rum has flavors very similar to the flavors in the beer so they just compliment each other in a really nice way. The lemon and the ginger work with those flavors, too. And I add a little bit of bitters to bring it all together.”
Lara Creasy’s Beach Shanty
1 ounce Brinley’s Shipwreck spiced rum
3/4 ounce G.E. Massenez ginger liqueur
3/4 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce velvet falernum
2 dashes Fee Brothers aromatic bitters
Allagash White to fill.
Build with ice in a tall or Collins glass. Top with beer. Roll once to a shaker or glass to combine. Garnish with a lemon peel.
By Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog