Picking a “cocktail of the summer” in 2020 feels incredibly fraught. The world is changing rapidly, festivities feel far from top of mind, and Americans ought to be staying home instead of gathering in indoor bars. Not exactly a recipe for boozy days and wild nights.
Although… maybe those are all perfect reasons to name a cocktail of the season. You probably need a recipe or two to try in your own backyard this summer. Something that makes it feel like a full-fledged party summer, even if it’s not. Our one rule for 2020? The recipe should be easy, adaptable, and one-off. You don’t want to make too many store runs. You don’t want to get bored. And you don’t need something that can be made in giant batches to accommodate some massive 4th of July party. It should also be as refreshing as hell. ‘Tis the season, after all.
That’s why we’re going with the Beer Spritz as our official cocktail of the summer 2020. So it is written, so shall it ever be.
The beer spritz has a couple of adaptations, but the overall idea is to add Campari to beer, stir, and serve. It’s pretty much the easiest highball you can make. You need some ice, a beer of your choice, an orange, and Campari. That’s it. With those humble ingredients, you’ll be ready to enjoy one of the most refreshing drinks in all of existence.
As a long time bartender, I’ve heard about and tasted beer in Campari long before this year. The Campari bar, Camparino, in Milan does a Beer Americano that’s become somewhat iconic on the cocktail circuit. But it didn’t really make an impact with me until a couple of weeks ago, when beer writer and historian, Mark Dredge (A Brief History of Lager), started posting about the Campari Radlers that he’s been making with his radler of choice. That got me thinking about my own favorite beer, Berliner Weisse, as a potential pairing. (I’ve also seen recipes calling for IPA, but more on that later.)
To help you do whatever meager, socially-distanced hosting you can manage this summer, we’re breaking down three easy ways to make a super refreshing Beer Spritz.
Classic Beer Spritz
This is the second easiest way to make this drink but the most refined and refreshing. This is also the most adaptable to your palate. As mentioned above, Mark Dredge is making these with a craft radler right now. And while I dig that version, I’m taking a different, though similar, path.
My preferred beer is the Berliner Weisse. This beer is kettle soured (where the wort is cooled for days while it sours before fermentation) with lacto bacteria, which adds citrus and creamy edge akin to yogurt. It’s sour, bright, and very low-alcohol. I’m using Stone’s Berliner Weisse for this recipe. I’ve also used Berliner Kindl’s Berliner Weisse to the same effect. The key here is to use a standard Berliner Weisse and not one that’s been mixed with fruit. You can of course, but it’s not really necessary.
Also, if this isn’t your jam, try it with other beers you dig. An IPA version is very popular on the internet, but I find that the overt hoppiness of an IPA drowns out the botanical bitterness of the Campari. Hefeweizen is another solid option as it adds softer depth with a hint of spice and banana. You can also use a funky Belgian ale, a lager, or whatever beer you want really. I’ve yet to give a porter or stout a try but nothing is stopping you from trying one as the summer drags on!
- 4-oz. Berliner Weisse
- 2-oz. Campari
- Orange peel
Fill a rocks glass with well-frozen ice cubes. Add in Campari. Slowly pour the Berliner Weisse over the ice. If you pour too fast, it’ll foam and overflow.
Give the drink a small stir. Peel off a finger of orange rind and spritz the oils over the top and rub the rind along the edges of the glass. Drop in the orange rind. Serve.
I can’t overstate how unbelievably refreshing this drink is. It’s like a bouquet of citrus fruits leaning towards grapefruit and pomelo. The orange adds a nice nose to the drink. The light-yet-creamy nature of the Berliner Weisse counterpoints the herbal bitterness of the Campari so damn well.
This will put an instant smile on your face.
If you’ve ever hung out a restaurant bar with the off-duty chefs and servers after the kitchen closes, you’ll know this drink. The Spaghett (also sometimes — and quite unfortunately — called the “Hobo Negroni”) is as simple as it gets and yet is way too tasty for what it is.
In Chicago, you’ll usually see these made with Miller High Life. I can’t get that in Berlin, so I had to go with MGD. It’s a little sweeter, but suits as a counterpoint to the Campari quite nicely.
In the end, if you don’t want to fuss with pouring beer and bitters into a glass and just need a quick and ultra-refreshing summer sipper right now, this is the play.
- 1 bottle Miller (High Life or MGD)
- 1-oz. Campari
- Orange Wedge
“Pour” off the neck of the beer bottle. Refill that neck with Campari. Shove in an orange wedge. Twirl. Drink.
There’s a part of me that can’t believe how good this is. This makes a cheap adjunct lager shine. I know, it sounds mad, but this is really refreshing and very quaffable. The Campari’s bitterness cuts through the cloyingly manufactured feel of the MGD. It’s orange, bitter, and slightly malty. Plus, you can make it in about five seconds with no need for any special equipment whatsoever.
Speaking of special equipment, you do need a bar tool for this recipe. But before we get into that, let’s talk shop on this drink.
The recipe is from famed bar chef Tommaso Cecca, who runs Camparino in Milan. It’s a base of a classic Americano highball — that’s equal parts Campari and sweet, red vermouth. Then, Cecca tops the drink with a lager foam. It’s as striking as it is delicious.
The crucial part of this drink is that as the foam settles back into a liquid beer, it flavors the Americano base with lager. The drink slowly morphs as you drink it, adding complexity with each sip. Plus, it looks cool AF.
- 3-oz. Birra Moretti (or Peroni)
- 3-oz. Campari
- 3-oz. Red Vermouth
- Orange Peel
Add well-frozen ice to a red wine glass, filling it about half full. Next, add in the Campari and vermouth and stir until well chilled.
I then spritz the base with orange oils from an orange rind. I’ve also seen this done over top of the foam, or even both.
Next, I foam the beer. I use a cocktail shaker and a little Aerolatte foaming thing-y. This takes all of 20 seconds as the foam doubles and the triples in depth very quickly.
I then gently pour the foam directly over the base until it reaches the top of the glass. That’s it.
There’s always a sense of satisfaction when you recreate a drink that you truly admire. The depth of this version is undeniable. The addition of sweet vermouth adds a layer of sweetness and more botanicals to the mix. The slow seep of beer into the base and the effervescent foam add both dimension and texture that’s hard to find in any other highball on the market.
This is a very unique drink that’ll transport you to a sunny square in Milan. And, overall, it’s fairly easy to make.
The Final Verdict:
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On the lighter side if things, I have to thank @markdredge for turning me onto beer and Campari. This is my take on Mark's Campari Radler with a tart Berliner Weisse with a Campari base and a twist of orange. It's a great low-alcohol blast of flavors that's the ultimate thirst quencher. Hello, drink of the summer!
The Berliner Weisse Spritz wins this by a country mile. It’s super easy to make, looks great in a glass, and goes down amazingly well without being overly alcoholic.
I can’t get over that I’ve never had this before this summer. I’m thinking back on all the years of drinking Berliner Weisse every summer — sometimes spiked with woodruff syrup or some other berry syrup but never Campari. Well now, I know what’ll I’ll be drinking every summer for the rest of my days. Yes, it’s that tasty.