Turn Your Favorite Beer Into Your Favorite Cocktail

Do you want a beer, or do you want a cocktail? The answer is yes. You want both. Right now. Simultaneously. In a single glass.

Today we're going to show you how to turn your old favorite beer into your new favorite syrup, and how to use it in a cocktail.

It's Friday afternoon, you've made it through the long week, and it's time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo's weekly booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol. Would this be good on pancakes?

I was first turned onto this concept when I was at the Beefeater distillery in London earlier this year. There, Tim Stones (one of Beefeater's brand ambassadors) made me a drink called the London Mule, originally created by Angus Zou at Alchemy, Taipei. It was fantastic, and it called for an ingredient I'd never seen before: Porter Syrup.

Turn Your Favorite Beer Into Your Favorite Cocktail

How To Make Porter Syrup

Thankfully, this is really easy to do. You can make it well in advance of whatever event you're going to host, and the syrup should keep for a good six weeks or so. Best of all, you only need two ingredients: beer and syrup. Let's start with the porter, since that's how I learned it.

Directions:

  • 1. Pour the porter into a large saucepan. You want something that's non-stick, or at least will not add flavor to the concoction (i.e. not cast iron).
  • 2. Turn the heat up to medium-high, stirring every couple of minutes, until the porter begins to boil. Once it does, reduce the heat so it's just high enough to keep it simmering.
  • 3. Let the beer simmer for about 30-40 minutes, give or take, stirring every couple of minutes (you don't want it to burn). We're going for a 2/3 reduction, ideally.
  • 4. Once the porter has been reduced to roughly 1/3 its original volume, remove it from heat, and pour it into a heat-resistant bowl or jar. Ideally, you'd use a kitchen scale here to weigh the bowl before hand, reset it to zero, and then pour the mixture in, so you know exactly how much it weighs.
  • 5. Add an equal amount of sugar to the mixture and stir until it is completely dissolved. We think raw sugar gives you the best, richest flavor here, and would recommend going that way. If you were able to use a scale in the previous step, then the most accurate way to do this is to add an equal amount of sugar by weight. So, if you had six ounces of hot, reduced porter in the bowl, then add sugar to it until it reaches 12 ounces.

Turn Your Favorite Beer Into Your Favorite Cocktail

Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of some delicious porter syrup. It's got a rich, malty flavor and it will go well with gin cocktails as well ask whiskey cocktails (probably rum cocktails, too). Funnel it into a little bottle, cap it, and it should last you a while.

What Not to Do

Having screwed this up a couple of times myself, allow me a few words of caution:

  • Don't rush it. You will be tempted to keep the heat on high so that the beer will boil harder and it will reduce faster. Don't. As with most reductions in cooking, if you burn it even slightly, the whole thing will be ruined and your drink will taste like burning, and not in a good way. Patience, young Jedi.
  • Don't Add the Sugar Early. There will also be a temptation to throw in the sugar right after you put the beer into the pan so you can reduce it all together. Again, don't. Not only will that make it a lot easier to burn, but the sugar will caramelize, which will make the syrup taste more like molasses than the original beer. It's also really easy to over-reduce it, and turn the whole thing into a syrup so thick it won't dissolve into your drink without five minutes of stirring. No good.

Turn Your Favorite Beer Into Your Favorite Cocktail

The London Mule

Now that you've got the syrup, the London Mule is dead simple to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5oz Beefeater

  • 1/3oz Pedro Ximinez (sweet sherry)

  • 1/3oz London Porter Syrup

  • 1.5oz London Porter (I used Fuller's)

  • Orange twist for garnish
  • Ice cubes

Directions:

This drink uses a technique known as "rolling."

  • 1. Fill a glass with ice, and add all of the liquid ingredients.
  • 2. Gently pour the ingredients from the glass into a shaker tin (or mixing glass).
  • 3. Strain the contents back into the original glass, then garnish with an orange twist.

Rolling doesn't always involve straining the drink, but for this one, do.

The drink is really lively and refreshing, but it's got a lot of different layers to it. Really tasty, definitely not boring, and very easy to make.

Turn Your Favorite Beer Into Your Favorite Cocktail

Other Beer Syrups

I was at a bachelor party a few weeks ago that had an ungodly amount of bourbon. I wanted to make everybody Old Fashioneds, but we didn't have any simple syrup (which I prefer over dry sugar). I decided to see if I could add a little extra flavor by using the same technique for the porter syrup, but instead using some cheap, American lager (I believe it was Bud).

To my astonishment, it was actually delicious. It was sweet, and tasted reminiscent of cereal. It was kind of comforting, actually. I made Old Fashioneds with 2 ounces of bourbon, a half ounce of the syrup, a dash of Angostura bitters, and a twisted an orange over the top. It created a really nicely balanced drink, and we drank a ton of them.

Then earlier this week, as I was preparing to write this article, I thought, "I wonder what would happen if I tried it with an IPA?" Would the sugar balance it out, or would it just become overpoweringly bitter? I grabbed a large bottle of Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA from my local grocery, reduced it to one-third it's original volume, then added equal sugar by weight.

It, too, turned out excellent. It was a lot more complex than the lager, and you could still taste the hops, which gave it kind of a citrousy, grapefruity edge to it. I tried it in an Old Fashioneds with bourbon and with gin (remember, an Old Fashioned is a formula, not a recipe) and they both turned out extremely well.

Turn Your Favorite Beer Into Your Favorite Cocktail

I've also made the dark syrup with Guinness Stout and Young's Double Chocolate Stout, both of which were fantastic.

So, will this work with any beer? My guess is no, but since we're three for three so far, I suspect that this would work with most beers. As long as your favorite beer isn't twenty bucks a bottle, why not give it a shot? You might just end up creating an ingredient that ties your favorite new cocktail together.


Thanks to Tim Stones and Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge for the assistance.