“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.”
–William Claude Dunkenfield, better known as W.C. Fields
Spring is here in full bore, rapidly rolling downhill towards the unflinching light and heat of a Texas summer. Last month’s interesting moments for your faithful correspondent included adding ‘snake wrangler’ to my Twin Liquors business card. Turns out we had a baby Texas garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis annectens, for the scientific-minded) lurking under one of our geranium planters here at the Galleria. Being the heroic type I am, I removed it. (We had a customer who was refusing to leave the store until it was gone.) After that brush with nature, I needed a long, cool drink. In fact, in most circumstances this time of year cool drinks sound like a good idea – but what about enjoying a mixed drink made with beer?
I know, sounds crazy. But let’s back up a moment. Beer drinks have been around for a very long time, and they were often the mainstay of the working class. Traditionally, everything from beef bouillon to raspberry syrup have been added to beer; it all depended on the type of beer and the region of the world you were drinking in.
In a moment of either cosmic synchronicity or carefully planned blog writing, the first drink I want to offer you is the snakebite. (No, I didn’t get bit. This snake was small enough it couldn’t have gotten its jaws around my pinky.)
The snakebite is a traditional British drink, often served in pubs during the hot months. It is equal parts lager and cider, creating a refreshing, slightly fruity, dry whistle-dampener. My recommendation is equal parts Taunton Blackthorn Hard Cider (check out this month’s BVB) and Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager. Simple ingredients for a simple, yet very tasty, summer tipple.
Mixing dark beer and sparkling wine is an old tradition in Europe, and makes a surprisingly light, yet still substantial, drink. You can mix Guinness Stout and a good, dry champagne – I’m a big fan of Veuve Cliquot Brut – and you get a Black Velvet. Across the North Sea, Germans mix schwarzbier and sparkling wine for a Bismarck; I would recommend Kostritzer Schwarzbier and Borgo Sanleo Prosecco; Borgo has a touch of sweetness and fruit that would balance well with the drier black lager.
Finally, I have a beer cocktail that I want to try but haven’t tried yet. I offer for your consideration the Lunchbox – half beer and half orange juice with a shot of amaretto liqueur. I don’t know why, but that sounds good. I would go with a Belgian wit like St Bernardus for this – and as far as I’m concerned, Luxardo Amaretto is the only way to go.
Until next month, keep your head up, your lace delicate, your malt toasty, and your hops snappy.
THIS MONTH’S BEER VOCABULARY BUILDER (BVB):
Cider: Much like the word football, this means something else in the rest of the world; what we call ‘hard cider’ most other folk just call ‘cider’. This time our definition is from the Encyclopaedia Brittanica: “Expressed juice of apples. Apples are ground to a fine pulp and then pressed. Hard (alcoholic) cider is fermented in vats for up to three months before being filtered and aged.”
Duke’s Take: Usually apples, yes – but I’ve also seen pear and other flavored ciders. No matter what, it’s a great summertime refresher.