Beer. Cocktails. Combining the two almost seems crazy, but here at Brokelyn we’re willing to experiment with ways to get a good buzz going. Turns out, when beer cocktails are done right, they’re pretty darn good, and even worth venturing out of your usual for (after enjoying your Brooklyn Beer Book beer on the house, of course).
Rather then send you out just asking the bartender to dump some tequila into a Tecate tallboy, we’ve got 9 bars for you to check out that are perfecting the art of the beer cocktail. Beyond the classics like the michelada, more inventive beer cocktails are being thrown together by booze mad scientsts around Brooklyn, like an award-winning gin-and-saison combo that took home “Best Beer Cocktail in NYC” at Brooklyn Brewery’s beer cocktail competition, to a lemon-infused vodka drink topped off with a Budweiser.
817 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg
At Reclamation, every cocktail is named after an 80s song, so we have no doubt you’ll have fun no matter what you order here. But the one to try, since it’s summer and the bar has added it to the menu specially for the season, is the Love Shack Shandy.
Bar manager, Michael Spencer admitted to us that beer cocktails aren’t his favorite cocktail choice – but he also said that their popularity is growing, and that using both a spirit and a beer, along with other ingredients, makes a delicious cocktail.
The Love Shack Shandy: Vodka, house made rosemary syrup, fresh lemon juice, and in the words of bar manager, Spencer, “we then stick a bottle of Budweiser upside down in a mason jar.” The ingredient play here is a majority of beer, lemon and rosemary playing on the palate and vodka to spike the drink.
From the bar manager: “I think beer cocktails will always have a place on certain bar menus,” Spencer said. “Some people are scared to drink a spirit and a beer combined in one cocktail. My belief is, the more they see them, the better chance they’ll [try] one.”
364 Grand St., Williamsburg
As the latest addition to the Restaurant Row of Grand St., Bill Baker’s is coming in with a few tricks up its sleeve. First of all, though not technically a brewpub, the bar/restaurant has four of its own beers on tap, the Baker’s Brews, which include a Vanilla Porter (deceivingly light, despite its dark color), an ESB (malty and sweet), a Belgian Wit (an even lighter version of the refreshing classic) and an IPA (described by beverage manager, Mark Romano, as “entry level.”)
In addition to serving them in flights and pints, Bill Baker’s is using their house brews to infuse cocktails and food in really interesting ways, so be sure to check ’em out while things are fresh and experimental.
Spicy Old Fashioned: a classic Old Fashioned made “a little more friendly” with the house ESB (a malty, English-style amber ale), garnished with candied maple bourbon bacon (a mouth-watering anomaly made in-house by co-owner and executive chef, Nels Benton), and topped with red bitters, giving the creamy ESB foam an even more pleasing sensory experience. The addition of the beer makes the classic cocktail a little fluffier.
From the owner: “The cocktails are beer-inspired and very refreshing for the summer.” – Adam Randisi, co-owner, chef and mixologist, Bill Baker’s
588 Grand St., Williamsburg
Another Grand St. cocktail and craft beer slinger, Huckleberry has been sporadically incorporating beer cocktails into their menu over the past two years or so, but one in particular rocked peoples’ socks: The Hero’s Journey took home the Judges Choice Award for “Best Beer Cocktail in NYC” in Brooklyn Brewery’s beer cocktail competition.
“The Belgian styles tend to contribute nice aromatics without overly bitter hop profiles,” said Huckleberry general manager, Jon Katayama. “Personally, I stay away from high IBU IPAs with beer cocktails”—that means the very bitter ones—“[they] dominate the flavor profile and can be less versatile.”
The Hero’s Journey: Martin Miller Gin, Lejay Creme de Cassis, Espirit de June, Lemon Juice, and mace (the outer husk of nutmeg) topped with Brooklyn Brewery’s 1/2 Ale Session Saison.
Price: $13, $10 during happy hour (5pm-8pm)
From the general manager: “There are two ways to approach [beer cocktails]: they can either be cocktails using beer as an ingredient, or beers that are fortified using spirits and modifiers. I’m not a big fan of putting things in a box, though. Forget the rules, try something new, and do what feels right.” – Jon Katayama, general manager, Huckleberry Bar
Pine Box Rock Shop
12 Grattan St., Bushwick
Since Pine Box Rock Shop was a craft beer bar with an edge from the start, it only makes sense that they’d embrace the beer cocktail from the beginning. “We’ve incorporated beer in our standard and seasonal cocktail menu pretty much since we opened in 2010,” said owner and operator, Heather Rush.
Beer cocktails have been happening here for a long time, so they stick to classics like the Michelada and Red Eye – but classics aside, Pine Box is experimenting new recipes, too. They’ve featured beer cocktails made with Kolsch, sours, stouts, saisons (“mix them with gin – seriously!”), red ales, cask beer and “pretty much anything we can get our hands on.”
And here’s an insider tip: Pine Box is hosting a release party for Braven Brewing Company on Friday, Sept. 18, and will be serving a special beer cocktail for the party: the Braven White IPA Moonshine Manhattan.
IPA Manhattan: the signature beer cocktail, developed by Rush and award winning bartender, Tony Pontius. “We use rye bourbon and sub the bitters with a bitter, high ABV, West Coast style IPA. If you want the whole recipe, you’re going to have to come to Pine Box and try one.”
From the owner: “Beer cocktails are the best of both worlds! It’s time for people to start thinking about beer the way they do about wine and spirits. There are endless flavors to experiment with. Make yourself some Gose Margaritas – you’re going to thank me that you did.”
612 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg
Northern Bell knows how to do three crucial things extremely well: whiskey, brews and barbecue. Improving upon standard bar offerings with things like homemade wing sauces and buckets of craft brews you can take out back to the hidden wooden patio, their stab at beer cocktails is no doubt on point.
Northern Bell use anything from pilsners to stouts in their beer cocktails, using beer as a mixer or as the backbone, depending on the drink. In any case, adding beer is “great because it can keep a drink light or add rich depth,” owner, manager and bartender, Michael O’Brien told us.
Being a man of many talents and ventures (he’s also got a hand in the next bar, Bellows Bar), we weren’t surprised when O’Brien said the cocktail list changes all the time, so beer cocktails come on and off depending on the season. But for summer, you’ll be safe asking for this one.
The Groll: Bourbon, lemonade and pilsner.
From the owner/manager/bartender: “Beer cocktails are great. And if they’re made properly, they’ll catch on and be around for a while.”
177 Grand St., Williamsburg
Another on the North Brooklyn scene, Bellows Bar – formerly Billet & Bellows – is renamed, refreshed and classing things up with a piano, jazz nights, a bangin’ beer selection and you guessed it – beer cocktails.
Bartender, Ashton Glover said he started incorporating beers into the cocktails when bartender friends at his local hangouts showed him the ropes. One of his best selling so far has been the Golden Screw, “super refreshing and very summer.” So far, the only beer he’s used in a cocktail is a peach lambic (a lambic is a Belgian-style fruit beer that incorporates things like cherries and raspberries to make a tart, refreshing beverage), but Bellows has plans to roll out new fall drinks in a few weeks (shhh it’s still summer).
The Golden Screw: mint syrup, Rittenhouse rye and peach lambic.
From the bartender: “Beer cocktails are cool. They usually make for a strong drink so you have to be careful when consuming or serving them. Beer-garitas get people hammered.”
No. 7 Bar and Restaurant
931 Manhattan Ave., Greepoint
7 Greene Ave., Fort Greene
Over the years, No. 7 has done a handful of beer cocktails. They have one going on right now that’s perfect for summer because it’s light, spicy and crisp, and is lower in alcohol so you can drink several.
Some ideal styles for No. 7 are cider and stout, which work with a lot of flavor profiles, but sometimes they mix it up, too. “I love using Peak Organic’s Summer Session to make fun shandy variations,” said Katherine Pagano, a general manager of the restaurant group. “It’s got a citrus-y, hoppy balance that works well with lots of things and is always food friendly.”
De Medici: Amaretto, house-made ginger syrup and Crispin Hard Cider. “The Crispin is dry and earthy, which nicely offsets that sweetness of the almond liqueur and the bite of the ginger.”
From the general manager: “[Beer cocktails] are a fun way to mix up your cocktail program. Sometimes, it replaces the mixer (club soda, tonic, etc.) but sometimes it’s the star of the drink. I don’t think the beer has to play one role, and since there are so many to choose from, we don’t have to pick.”
22 Roebling St., Williamsburg
Passenger Bar has been serving beer cocktails since they opened almost three years ago, and unsurprisingly, their Micheladas and Shandies have always been popular.
The Michelada: Homemade bloody mary mix (very spicy and flavorful) with a Corona or Tecate – Mexican beer is best for these.
From the owner: “We like anything that has a creative spin on the standard.” – Melissa Aubert, owner, Passenger Bar
676 5th Ave., South Slope
In the Spring of 2012, David Moo, owner and bar manager at quarter Bar, put the bar’s first beer cocktail on the menu: the Tom Mix Wash, made for summer with a double old fashioned base containing rye and ginger beer, topped with pilsner and mint garnish. In keeping with the times, Moo has introduced something new this time, something “especially oceanic and summery” – also incorporating pilsner into the mix.
Sea Shandy: In a pint glass, prepare a salt rim and add ½ oz lime juice; 3 oz Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda; top with pilsner.
Price: $7. “Less than cocktails, but more than beer.”
From the owner: “Beer cocktails have become part of the repertoire of the cocktail bar scene, and will remain so, but I don’t think that they’ll take over the preferences in either cocktail bars or in beer bars. Most people in beer bars mostly want to drink beer, and in cocktail bars, the beer cocktail will become another flavor choice among many.”
The Way Station
683 Washington Ave., Crown Heights
“We have played with beer cocktails but haven’t put any on our menu because we rotate our kegs every week. We occasionally buy a gallon of vanilla ice cream to make beer floats with Breckenridge Vanilla Porter, or when we have Captain Lawrence Kolsh on tap, we add Firefly apple pie moonshine to it to create a Captain Tight Pants.” – Andy Heidel, owner, the Way Station
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