Shandy 2.0: Modern Takes on the Simplest Beer Cocktail

By Justine Sterling Posted May 24, 2013
Son of a Gun's Shandy

House Fermented Shandy Courtesy of Son of a Gun

One of the simplest summer cocktails, the shandy is a refreshing blend of beer and lemonade—or citrus soda or ginger ale depending on where you're ordering one. But since "simple" isn't American bartenders' M.O., shandy upgrades are popping up around the country that use seasonal syrups, spices, hard liquor and, in the case of Son of a Gun in Los Angeles, re-fermentation.

Son of a Gun cocktail whiz Daniel Warrilow's fascination with fermenting things began on a trip to Portland at the fantastic bar Clyde Common. There, bar manager Jeffrey Morgenthaler showed off his housemade ginger beer, which he makes in the bottle with yeast (rather than carbonating ginger syrup and water with a soda siphon). Warrilow thought, what else could be fermented in-house?

His shandy experiment was theoretically easy: Mix beer with citrus juice and a sweetener, add yeast, cap and wait. But the correct proportions took time to figure out. “There were a few explosions,” Warrilow recalls.

Today, the restaurant features a different shandy each season. Warrilow has featured shandies made with coconut porter, lime juice and orgeat (an almond-flavored syrup) during the winter and hard cider with lemon juice during the fall. This summer, Son of a Gun's shandy is based on the classic Hefeweizen with honey and lemon juice. He mixes the ingredients together with 15-20 granules of Champagne yeast in a 16-ounce EZ-Cap bottle (with a swing top and air-tight gasket), shakes lightly, then seals the bottle. The shandies sit for just two days at room temperature (Warrilow's office runs at about 70 degrees), then they're ready to be chilled down and served. Warrilow serves customers a full bottle accompanied by a Collins glass filled with ice and a straw.

The finished product isn't any higher in alcohol than beer—Warrilow estimates that after the beer is diluted then re-fermented the shandy finishes at about 3-4% ABV—but the flavor changes in a terrific way. “Fermenting brings everything together and it creates another level of flavor—it's almost rustic,” Warrilow says. “It's a yeasty beer flavor, which is quite nice.” Here, more bars with creative takes on the shandy.

Bar Guide

Betony, New York
At the just opened Betony, general manager Eamon Rockey designed the Dessert Shandy as an homage to the pastry team. Based on an apricot dessert topped with almond ice cream, the shandy is made with Stoudts Pils (a Pennsylvania-made pilsner), housemade orgeat, Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur and sherry vinegar, which Rockey uses as an acid in lieu of the usual citrus. He serves the tart, fruity drink in a chilled pilsner glass.

Wit & Wisdom, Baltimore
Inspired by the flavors of a crab boil, the Eastern Shore Shandy is made with Victory Pilsner, fresh lemon juice, locally made Sloop Betty vodka and housemade Old Bay Syrup. The sweet-savory cocktail is served in a mug rimmed with Old Bay and garnished with lemon zest.

Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen, San Francisco
For his seasonal, off-menu Rhubarb Shandy, bartender Kevin Diedrich makes a rhubarb syrup. The lightly bitter syrup is shaken with Aviation Gin and fresh lemon juice then strained into a pilsner glass. To finish the bright, springy cocktail, he tops it off with Stone Brewing Belguiqe, a Belgian-style IPA.

Related: Refreshing Summer Cocktails
Modern Summer Cocktails
Superb Classic Cocktails

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