Every Friday, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.
If you travel to Spain in the summertime, you're likely to be served a clara con limón, a light spritzer made of beer mixed with lemonade (similar to what many of us know as a shandy). Often maligned as a wimpy drink for people who can't hold their liquor, these types of beer-based cocktails are actually perfect for long, hot summer days: they're refreshing, a little sweet, a little tart, and the alcohol level is low enough that you can sip on one pretty much all afternoon without worry.
Luckily for us, there's no need to fly to Spain to enjoy this summery drink. A good clara con limón is easy and inexpensive to make at home: just mix up a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade, and then top it with beer on demand. My version takes advantage of summer's proliferation of herbs to make an herb-infused lemonade base -- but it's just as good made straight up.
Makes 4 to 5 drinks
For the simple syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup loosely packed herbs (I used thyme, which works beautifully, but this is obviously adaptable to your tastes.)
For the lemonade:
3 lemons, juiced
4 cups water
Lightly flavored beers, such as a pilsner or lager (even low-end beers, like Amstel or PBR, work well)
Herbs for garnish
In a saucepan or pot with a lid, bring simple syrup ingredients (sugar, water, and herbs) to a boil, stirring. Immediately remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how strong of an herbal flavor you want in your drink. Strain out the herbs if you like; I leave mine in the entire time.
In a pitcher, dispenser, or something from which you can easily pour, mix the lemon juice, 4 cups of water, and 3/4 to 1 cup simple syrup. Taste for sweetness. Since the beer will eventually dilute the drink, I tend to go a bit sweeter than I normally would with lemonade.
Add ice to the lemonade if you’re serving right away, or add ice glass-by-glass for all-day-long consumption.
To serve, fill a tall glass (with or without ice) halfway with lemonade. Fill the rest of the glass with beer. Garnish with an herb sprig, and drink up.
If you have leftover simple syrup, it will keep, in a sealed container in the fridge, for a week.
Photos by Sarah Searle