Beer is served more as it is than as a cocktail base. Not that you can’t do anything with it beyond an odd Shandy
You know this. Brews like beer and wine are more often identified with two opposite sets of aficionados. One informal, a lot sporty, collars up — and frequently bottoms up — kind. The other, a formal, measured conversationalist with a penchant for all things refined.
Different though the infusions are — in terms of ingredients used, the taste they spawn and thereby people they attract, both have proved to be not quite often the ultimate ones to inspire tremendous creativity behind the bar counter. Simply because they are just fine without any extra ingredient, has had a rather long history of being drunk as they are. So more often than not, they do not become the base for most of the cocktails you find on a bar menu.
Not that you can’t do, or don’t do, any cocktail with beer and wine beyond the usual Shandy (from beer), and Sangria and Bellini (from wine.) They may not be popular in our bars but there are enough examples to hand out in terms of beer and wine cocktails concocted by mixologists worldwide. And yes, there are a lot of possibilities for an amateur bartender like you and me too.
Since a sweaty summer is gripping us already (wonder whether April is spring anymore!), let’s concentrate on possibilities with the popular summer hard drink, beer. As far as my creativity goes, I have not moved much beyond Shandy in many years. O yes! I once tried out my hand at something called Sake Bomb in a Hong Kong bar. It is nothing but a shot of sake dropped on to a mug of chilled beer. The taste was good and sake enhanced pretty much the potency of the brew.
Then of course, I have heard about a beer cocktail called U-Boot, a mug of beer served with a shot glass filled with vodka “submerged” in it. In fact, there are quite a few beer cocktails served with spirits, like the one muddled up with brandy, gin and rum called Hangman’s Boot. The beer used here is the black ale London Porter. Also Boiler Maker, served the same way as U-Boot but the spirit is whiskey. Then there is a beer cocktail mixed with champagne called Black Velvet.
Through my knowledge on beer cocktails exhausts here, the list, I can assure you, is pretty long. No, bars closer home have such a list though. And that is why precisely, The Pink Room, a recently opened café-lounge-bar at Hauz Khas Village New Delhi, attracted my attention the other day. It has a host of summer cocktails and mocktails lined up for its customers in a vibrant three-floor pink setting but what becomes of my interest is its Beer Margarita and Red Eye.
So a dank summer afternoon, I land up at the bar manned by a rather reticent young bartender by the name of Harish Kashyap. Armed with a shy half smile, Harish, with two years of experience behind the bar, turns out to be quite a pro. He first rolls out the Beer Margarita for me. A standard beer mug is filled with crushed ice almost to its half length. Five ml each of Tabasco sauce and Worchester sauce are put into the mug. Harish then adds 10 ml fresh lime juice, muddles the mix a bit with a straw before turning upside down an open beer stub.
For Red Eye, Harish does ditto with the mug, half filled with crushed ice. Five ml each of Tabasco and Worchester sauces go into it plus 10 ml lime juice. The mix is muddled before he pours 60 ml of tomato juice in it. Muddles it again with a straw and turns upside down an open beer stub. Harish tells me that there is a trick here on how better to drink the cocktails. After a few sips, you are to lift a bit the beer bottle so that it gets mixed with the other ingredients waiting at the base. Else, the sipper would miss the advantage of the ingredients and get only the normal taste of the beer. Considering their potency, he also gives them the name of a “couple drink.”
“Beer Margarita for the boy, Red Eye with tangy tomato flavour for the girl.” The drinks cost Rs. 450 each before taxes.
The Pink Room also has a terrace, the high point of several joints dotting the Village overlooking the Hauz Khas Lake. With mercury mounting, sipping a beer cocktail post sundown at the café won’t be a bad idea. Till of course, I find more evolved versions in my city, say a Gose mit Kümmellikör, done with a shot of Kümmel — a liqueur flavoured with caraway seeds, fennel and cumin, with Gose beer, a sour wheat beer which has definitely made Leipzig (in Germany) a place to visit for beer lovers.