The following is a part of a guest series authored by Lauren Gutshall on discovering new wines and beers.
It’s no secret that I’m partial to beer and wine, but sometimes I do enjoy a perfectly blended cocktail, preferably those made with beer or wine.
Last weekend Nate and I spent a few days in Baltimore. While we were there, we visited the Heavy Seas Alehouse, where in addition to their regular line up of beers, they have an entire menu of beer cocktails.
Nate decided to have a “Lost Cargo,” a fabulous cocktail made with Heavy Seas Peg Leg stout, bourbon, port, bitters and toasted spices. We watched our bartender pour two ounces of bourbon and an ounce of port into a shaker of ice. She threw in a few bitters and shook. The mixture was then strained into a glass and topped with the stout. She rained spices over a lit match to create the toasted spices that settled on the head of the beer. It was amazing.
I would say it was the best beer cocktail I’ve had in a long time, but then last night I discovered beer jam, a syrupy beer concoction that is used in cocktails. The beer is boiled with sugar, vanilla and spices and then pectin is added to produce a rich, loose, jelly-like syrup.
Nate had a Beer Jam Manhattan, made with bourbon, beer jam and candied cherries at Henlopen City Oyster House in Rehoboth Beach. (Very important aside: Henlopen has phenomenal food, an extensive beer list and a fabulous wait staff. If you are in Rehoboth this summer, I highly recommend it). The beer jam was not as thick in consistency as a jelly; instead, it was smooth and spicy with strong vanilla and chocolate notes that paired perfectly with the bourbon.
For me personally, these new twists on beer cocktails are welcome departures from the traditional beer cocktail: the shandy. A shandy is beer mixed with a nonalcoholic beverage, typically lemonade. Shandies certainly have their place; they are great summer treats because they are so light and refreshing. Some breweries have started producing lighter beers called shandies that replicate the beer/lemonade drink. Leinenkugel may have corned the market with its summer shandy, but our good friends at Alter Ego made a lovely blueberry shandy this summer.
Beer isn’t the only libation showing up in cocktails; wine has been doing it for centuries. The most common wine cocktail is sangria, a traditional Spanish drink made with a mixture of wine, fruit, brandy and club soda. In researching the origins of sangria, I encountered a slew of articles that call it a “punch.” I find this a bit of a misnomer because it implies that sangria is sweet, when it really doesn’t have to be.
For me, the authentic version made with dry red wine is best, but sangria blanco or sangria made with cava (the Spanish equivalent to Champagne) can be delicious as well. The one rule I have when making sangria is that you are not allowed to skimp on the ingredients. Just because it’s all going to be mixed together, that does not give you permission to use mediocre wine.
The great thing about sangria is that you can play with the ingredients — the possibilities are pretty endless. I personally like to contrast the fruit and wine flavors. I use citrus fruits with dry red wines that have strong berry notes. When I make white sangria, I use strawberries and blueberries or peaches to contrast the typical underlying citrus notes of an albarino or Riesling.
Despite having a well-stocked bar at home, I lack the skills to be a good mixologist so I’ve never perfected the art of making good cocktails. I also find that most cocktails served in restaurants are too sweet for my palate. The great thing about beer cocktails is that they aren’t overly sweet or sugary. And what I love about sangria is that you can experiment with it and make it to your own personal taste.
Lauren’s Sangria Recipes:
- 1 bottle of dry red wine (I use the traditional Spanish Tempranillo).
- 3 oranges
- 2 lemons
- 1 apple
- 1 whole carrot (or several baby carrots)
- Orange juice
- Club soda
Squeeze the juice from two oranges and a lemon into a pitcher. Slice the third orange, the other lemon and an apple, and add them to the pitcher. Sprinkle the fruit with a generous dose of sugar. Add just enough orange juice to cover the apples and make sure there is enough liquid in the bottom to dissolve the sugar. Mix to incorporate the sugar. Add – and I’m not kidding about this – sliced carrots (trust me, they are delicious), a healthy slug of cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg. Pour in a bottle of tempranillo and some brandy to taste. Top it off with club soda.
Note: Sangria gets better the longer it sits, so if you’re having it at a party, you can make it a day ahead of time. Before you serve it, give it a good stir.
- 1 bottle of dry white wine (I like a Spanish Albarino, but a dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc works well too).
- 1 orange
- 2 peaches
- Grand Marnier
- Club soda
Muddle a few raspberries in bottom of a pitcher with a bit of lemonade. Slice the orange and the two peaches, and add them to the pitcher. Sprinkle the fruit with sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Toss in more whole raspberries and sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon. Pour in a bottle of white wine and Grand Marnier to taste. Top it off with club soda.
Variation 1: Use blueberries and strawberries instead of sliced peaches and raspberries. Muddle the blueberries and strawberries in the bottom of the pitcher. Omit the cinnamon. Add a bit of mint.
Variation 2: Use cava or a sparkling wine instead of a dry white wine.