How to Make Beer Cocktails—No Recipe Required

Convenience is key.

May 10, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

If you’re unfamiliar with beer cocktails, it’s time you’re brought up to speed. These concoctions combine beer with other kinds of liquor to create something that’s more interesting but still refreshing. The case for loving beer cocktails is simple: They taste good, are easy to make, and—because they don’t require a recipe—can make you seem like the coolest, most laid-back version of yourself.

If beer combined with liquor doesn't immediately sound appetizing to you, that’s ok. In fact, it can even be a good thing: If you’ve ever been, met, or heard of a cool person before, you’ll know that having obscure tastes and preferences is part of the gig. But, unlike my weeklong foray into “foreign film” fandom, beer cocktails are more than an exercise in liking something different—they’re worthwhile and actually good.

When done right, a beer cocktail transforms a forgettable beer into something a bit more exciting. In a drinking setting, specifically one with a lot of cheap beer, it’s also resourceful. Similar to looking into a poorly stocked fridge in a bare-bones kitchen and somehow making a perfect risotto, turning a light lager into a delicious cocktail is always impressive and entirely worth learning how to do.

However, unlike a perfect risotto, the best beer cocktails don’t require technical ability. If you can pour something into a glass, you’re adequately trained. It’s in this ease and convenience that the coolness of the beer cocktail lies: You’re doing something resourceful but genuinely not trying too hard, like tapping a keg without a YouTube tutorial. With that in mind, here is everything you need to know to make beer cocktails without a recipe.

What Kind Of Beer?

Whatever you want. Since you’re going to be adding other ingredients to your beer, cheap stuff probably makes the most sense. But don’t feel wrong about pouring another liquor into the can of a meticulously crafted, higher-priced pilsner. According to Caitlin Wilson, a nine-year employee of the award-winning, Atlanta-based brewery Creature Comforts, “as long as you’re buying it, that’s fine. [We] don’t care what you guys do.”

Light Beer + Aperol or Campari + Citrus

Nascar spritz, aper-ale spritz, spaghett—this combo of light beer, either Aperol or Campari, and some citrus always hits. It’s bitter, refreshing, and low enough in ABV that you can—responsibly—enjoy them all afternoon. To make, add a shot (typically 1 ½ ounces, but just eyeball it) of Aperol or Campari to your beer, squeeze in orange or lemon (lime or grapefruit works too), swirl it around, and enjoy. When it’s hot or your beer’s too warm, serve over ice. If you need a visual tutorial, watch this.

Light Beer + Amaro

Pouring a dark, herbaceous digestif into an easy-drinking beer creates a weird—and not necessarily appealing—visual. But, it’s absolutely delicious and if you make it straight in the can, you’ll never need to confront its odd hue. To make this simplified version of a Picon Bierre, follow this simple formula: Take a gulp of whatever, cold, cheap, light beer you enjoy, then pour in an ounce or two of your preferred Amaro. Of all the drinks on the list, this is the one I turn to the most. It’s subtle, refreshing, and tastes like a better, more grown-up version of Coca-Cola.

Sour Beer + Rum + Citrus

Re: pouring stuff into well-crafted beer. If you don’t like sours, try mixing one with a bit of rum and citrus and your opinion might change. If you’re working with a lighter sour, Breezy Flood, the bar manager of The Pearl Club in Chicago, suggests “adding an ounce of some sort of fruit juice.”

Whatever You’ve Got

Experiment. Try stuff that doesn’t make sense—just don’t impose your concoction upon your friends until it’s good and you can make it without a recipe.

Other Good Beer Drinks

What is your favorite type of beer cocktail? Let us know in the comments below!

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Paul Hagopian

Written by: Paul Hagopian

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