What do you think when you hear, “Beer Cocktail?”  Craft beer purists may think that bartenders have too much time on their hands.  This week on Beer Notes, we may inform your opinion and  spark your imagination.

Cocktail, as we use the word today is purely American in origin.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in the early 1800s, it referred to a specific drink known as a Sling – spirits mixed with bitters, water and sugar.  By the mid 1800s, cocktail came to mean any alcoholic drink made by mixing a spirit or spirits with other ingredients such as a liqueur, fruit juice, etc.

The concept is not that new, however.  Purl was consumed in England in the 1700s.  It’s a mixture of hot ale, gin and sugar and is mentioned in several novels by Charles Dickens.

With today’s craft beer, the flavors and opportunities for interesting beer cocktails explode.  Hops add a bitter flavor, a traditional cocktail ingredient.  Carbonation is also familiar to many cocktail drinkers.  Malt flavors add depth and interest to the creative mixologist.  Then, consider the fruit flavors and smoothness of milkshake IPAs, the tartness of sours, the malt, coffee and chocolate in porters and stouts.  Think rum punches, margaritas and chocolate martinis. 

With a pedigree this long and the ever expanding flavor profiles in today’s craft beer, beer cocktails are definitely a rediscovered route for creative expression.  

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