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Cocktail Class: Summer Shandy

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Photo by Johnny Autry
Photo by John Autry

Often, when I am walking my dog in the evenings, the scent of hot charcoal grills will waft over our path. That experience immediately triggers the scent memory of many a backyard cookout, paper plates heavy with a dog and a burger, an ice cream maker churning away somewhere, and a cooler full of beer with the ice slowly melting as we all douse ourselves (and the kids) with bug spray.

Chances are, this is a familiar scene for you as well. And if such a cookout is in your future, make room on that picnic table for a pitcher of summer shandy.

One of the lightest libations in the barkeep’s library, summer shandies are fun to play with because there is a lot of room for individualization. In its simplest form, a shandy is a mix of beer and something fruity or fizzy (or both), and while there are bottled versions available (Wisconsin-based Leinenkugel has a very popular one), experimentation is the name of the game.

Here’s how it works

  1. Choose your beer. Lighter beer works better, such as any German-style lager. However, don’t let that stop you from really mixing it up. While I would not suggest an oatmeal porter as your beer base, I have enjoyed a tasty concoction with Wicked Weed’s Watermelon Saison.
  2. Choose your mixer. Lemonade is classic. However, any natural citrus punch is a good place to start. From there, try natural sodas, ginger beer, or even, depending on the beer base, peach juice.
  3. Choose your ratio. Anything goes here. Go halvsies, or skew more beer or more mixer. Whatever you do, the key is to keep the shandy ultra cold for ultimate refreshment. If you have an empty growler about, an easy way to accomplish this is to pour the mixed shandy in, cap it, and place it in the beer cooler for guest to pour themselves.
  4. Garnish is optional. Orange or lemon slices add a nice touch but are by no means required.