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We like beer. We like cocktails. But it was a particularly smart human who put the two together. Good beers have such a wide range of flavors—some bitter, some sweeter, some fruity, some spicy—all of which can be enhanced by different spirits.
Here are three of our favorite beer cocktails arranged from lightest to heaviest. They start with an afternoon wheat beer concoction you could down a couple of before dinner and move to a dark, brooding stout-and-rum creation. A note of caution: While these drink as easily as the beers they’re made from, they all pack a straight-liquor punch. So use your beer cocktails responsibly.
Lightest: The All-American
As we head into red-white-and-blue season, here’s an interesting fact about the USA: Applejack is the oldest American spirit. (And Laird’s, our favorite applejack, holds American distilling license #001.) A straight-up apple brandy, Laird’s Bottled in Bond applejack drinks like a whiskey but with a distinct apple flavor, which is a perfect match for a light wheat beer.
Instructions: Pour an ounce of Laird’s Bottled in Bond applejack, ½ an ounce of good apple juice, and a dash of orange bitters into a beer glass. Add 12 ounces of chilled wheat beer. Garnish with an orange wheel.
Intermediate: Mr. Three Step
Campari, bourbon, and pilsner? Believe it. Beers have sweet and bitter qualities of their own, and Campari heightens both, blending in seamlessly, while the bourbon adds a sweetness and depth in itself. Perfect for summer afternoons; it drinks like a beer with a little something mysterious in the background.
Instructions: Pour 1 ounce of bourbon, ½ an ounce of Campari and ½ ounce of sweet vermouth (we’re using Carpano Antica) into a beer glass. Add 12 ounces of chilled pilsner. Garnish with a lemon peel, squeezing over the top to spritz its citrus oils everywhere.
Back in colonial days, grog-happy sailors mixed together all sorts of crazy things for drinking purposes, including dark beer and rum. (They called it a Rattle-Skull, which gives you an idea of how that turned out.) It weirded us out a bit at first, but once you try it, there’s definitely something cool happening. Imagine funky Jamaican rum and a bright burst of lime all hiding within each dark sip of beer. We’re adding the gently spiced tiki syrup, velvet falernum to really make things interesting.
Instructions: Pour 2 ounces of Jamaican rum (we’re using Appleton Estate Signature Blend, the rum formerly known as Appleton V/X), ¾ ounce of velvet falernum and 3 dashes of Angostura bitters into a beer glass. Add 12 ounces of chilled stout. Squeeze a lime wedge over the top and drop it in. Top off with 1 more big dash of Angostura on top.