Beer, the Perfect Mixer

“Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, in the clear.”

I heard these words long before I started my drinking career. And like the many phrases absorbed in my Catholic youth, I believed the message without question. It was just one of those concepts taken as a given, like the certain knowledge that God can see you masturbating, or that a single drop of ejaculate will impregnate some poor girl. It’s true. It’s accepted. Live accordingly.

And when the age of drink hit, I did live accordingly. Most of the time. Those moments when I ignored the rule were dearly paid for, in my mind. Never did I actually consider that I felt just as sick on the liquor first/beer second combo as I did on the reverse. When it feels that your head is being attacked by a large man with a mallet, you rarely ponder these subtle issues.

This is my excuse for being somewhat surprised by the recent trend of beer cocktails, though I find myself delighted by the concept. I love my beer and I love my booze, and despite the lessons of my youth, I will happily enjoy the two in concert. Let us cast our eyes westward…

A new style of mixing the two favored forms of alcohol is emerging with frothy force in L.A.’s increasingly sensual drinkscape: the beer cocktail. Novel mixtures of beer, gin, vodka, whiskey, juices, infusions and herbs, beer cocktails are pouring two of the city’s most hedonistic obsessions — craft beer and mixology — into a single glass, one that showcases the properties of fine beer rather than shunting it to the side as just another ingredient.

It makes sense, really. As a half-assed home cook, I long ago learned the value of beer as a substitute for other liquids. (Who has white wine sitting idle? Or chicken broth at the ready? Let’s just pour some beer in and hope for the best.) After all, beer is just water with a wee supply of alcohol and flavoring agents (science!). So why shouldn’t it make for an ideal mixer?

In a just world, this particular trend would spread far and wide. Beer snobs and hipster boozehounds, take heed – mix the best with the best. Find the perfect blend of hops and bitters. Mesh stout with bourbon. Discover a grand unification theory of booze. We will all be the better for it. Whomp up.

Photo: Woman drinking beer, c. 1906. Wisconsin Historical Society Image #60722