Brooks: Beer Cocktails

Written by Jay R. Brooks for The Contra Costa Times and Mercury News

Beer cocktails: The Michelada from Austin's Hotel San Jose, the Gran Inka from Miami Beach's Bar Lab, and the Kelso Cola from Nashville's Holland House, from left. (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune)

Beer cocktails: The Michelada from Austin’s Hotel San Jose, the Gran Inka from Miami Beach’s Bar Lab, and the Kelso Cola from Nashville’s Holland House, from left. (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune)

Many people reach for Champagne or sparkling wine to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but there’s a growing trend in another bubbly direction: beer cocktails. Originally, a cocktail was just one type of mixed drink, a subset of the genre, such as a julep, flip, swizzle, fizz or toddy. Several cocktail recipes were included in the 1862 “Bar-Tender’s Guide,” and the term took on its more modern meaning over the next few decades.

But it was Prohibition that really led to a surge in popularity of the cocktail. With no legal alcohol to serve, speak-easies had to make do with illegal hooch. Mixing bathtub gin with sweeter, more flavorful additions made the booze more palatable — and probably more profitable.

Scarcities during World War II nearly killed off the grander cocktails, making way for simpler mixed drinks — gin and tonic, for example, and rum and cola. By the 1980s, classic cocktails were nearly as dead as good beer.
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