On April Fools Day, The Ball & Biscuit and its head bartender/operating partner Zach Wilks hosted us and 21 friends for cocktALEs. cocktALEs featured a flight of five beer cocktails, which Zach created with our input on the beer additions.
Our objective in teaming up with Zach was to show other craft beer lovers that beer and liquor are not strange bedfellows. The event made me realize how much I miss having a well-made cocktail. Before I became a beer geek, my drink of choice was usually a Bloody Mary or a dirty martini. But over the past six years, I've become so accustomed to having a good beer in my hand that I usually give no consideration to having a cocktail when I'm out drinking. Yet there I was at cocktALEs, downing each cocktail in the flight quicker than Don Draper swilling highballs at a Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce client meeting gone bad.
Our cocktALEs flight proceeded in the following order:
Mass Ave French 75
Stout Dessert Cocktail
Zach's styling of each cocktail was impressive. He even surprised us by changing the beer ingredient in the French 75, which was supposed to be Sun King Sunlight Cream Ale but was instead New Albanian's Elsa Von Horizon Imperial Pilsner. While the cream ale version that Gina and I tested before the event was delicious, the hop zing of the Elsa added extra sass to the drink's citrus and sugar notes.
I found it difficult to choose a favorite from the flight because all of the cocktails were flavorful. But as a Bloody Mary fan, I had to go with the Mezcal Michelada, which included mezcal, Hoosier Momma Spicy Bloody Mary Maker, and Sun King's Million Dollar Brewski Vienna Lager. This drink is the Mexican cousin of the Bloody Mary; it hit my palate with a peppery and tomatoey kick that mingled well with the smokiness of the mezcal and the malty sweetness of the lager.
When drinking a beer cocktail it's important to remember that beer usually plays a supporting role, very rarely taking a turn as the star. For our menu for cocktALEs, stronger liquors led the way, with the beer giving added dimension to the drink.
Each drink provided an entirely different flavor than the last, but the HopHattan - featuring New Albanian Hoptimus - was perhaps the most surprising, as the aggressive hop flavors of the Imperial IPA were matched by the bold flavors of the accompanying rye. Instead of an overpowering experience, the HopHattan was balanced while still being full-flavored. It's a drink that will make its way to my kitchen often.
I've seen some very recent negative press about beer cocktails and how much people didn't like the idea of them. I'm willing to try anything once, and the Ball and Biscuit set the bar extremely high. I didn't know what to expect, but I've been enjoying really fantastic cocktails at the Ball and Biscuit since they opened, and I went in with an open mind. All of the cocktails were really excellent. My personal favorite was the HopHattan. I already enjoy rye whiskey, and the combination of the rye and Hoptimus paired wonderfully together. The flavor complemented each other and never dominated each other. My other favorite pairing was the cider sangria. It will be perfect for the summer months coming up.
I will always be beer guy, but sometimes you just need to change things up a little bit. All of the drinks were well done and very surprising.
Title: I'll Be Back Zach, or The Ball & Biscuit Haiku
Beer before liquor?
Liquor before beer? Neither.
Beer cocktails instead.
We thank Zach and The Ball & Biscuit for hosting the event and being eager to experiment with these cocktails. We hope we can team up again for cocktALEs 2.
If you'd like to try some of these cocktails at home, Zach was kind enough to put together recipe cards for 4 of the 5 cocktails:
1.5 oz. Los Nuahales Mezcal
1.5 oz. Vienna lager (Sun King Million Dollar Brewski)
3 oz. Hoosier Momma Spicy Bloody Mary Maker
Mixology: Combine all the ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and strain over ice. Top with beer and garnish with lime. A glass with a salted rim is great for this one.
.5 oz. Grand Marnier
.5 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
.5 oz. Applejack (from Huber Winery)
Squeeze of lemon and lime
3 oz. hard apple cider (Magners Irish Cider)
Mixology: Combine all ingredients besides the cider in a shaker with ice. Shake to mix and strain over ice. Top off with cider and stir. Garnish with a wedge of apple. This recipe works best scaled up and served punch style; be sure to add lots of apple, lime, orange and lemon slices.
Mass Ave French 75
1.5 oz. Death's Door Gin
3 tsp. powdered sugar
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1.5 oz. Imperial Pilsner (New Albanian Elsa Von Horizon) or Cream Ale (Sun King Sunlight Cream Ale)
Mixology: Combine all the ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously and strain over ice. Top off with beer and garnish with lemon.
2 oz. Willet rye whiskey
1 oz. sweet Vermouth
1 oz. New Albanian Hoptimus Imperial IPA
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 dash of Grenadine.
Mixology: Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir for 30 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with Maraschino cherries.