The Boilermaker, also known as a beer and a shot, is a dive bar staple beloved by consumers and industry insiders alike. And while the most notable Boilermaker features a pint of light beer next to a shot of well whiskey, acclaimed bars like NYC’s Katana Kitten are upping the ante and creating unique, quaffable pairings ideal for starting off a night (its Sapporo and Toki Japanese whisky combo is particularly popular).
But when two different glasses are handed to you at the same time, you might wonder, “What’s the right way to drink a Boilermaker?” Do you shoot the shot and chug the beer? Drink them separately? Or somehow together? To answer these questions, VinePair consulted Harrison Ginsberg, bar director at NYC’s Crown Shy, who shares his best practices for ordering and sipping a shot-beer combo.
First, Ginsberg encourages patrons to think outside the typical macro lager and Jameson pairing. “For me, a Boilermaker can be anything from a shot and a beer, to a pour of something and a cider or a cold soda, or just something that pairs really nicely.” One of his favorite Boilermaker pairings is reposado tequila with Basque-style cider.
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Once you’ve expanded your horizons, the next step is ordering the right combination for you. While it’s completely fine to order a standard Boilermaker with no added detail, Ginsberg suggests getting more specific — naming the style of beer or cider you’re looking for as well as which spirit you want to accompany it. “I think it’s always nice to be a little more specific just so somebody knows what you’re talking about,” he says. He recommends starting by checking out the beer list, which is typically shorter than a spirits list, and then picking a spirit to match the style you’re in the mood for.
Once you have both glasses in front of you, there are endless ways to enjoy a Boilermaker. “There are certain days where I, myself, have had a long day and I slam the shot and chase with the thing next to it,” says Ginsberg. “But I think it’s more fun for me to sip something and drink the beer (or the thing that accompanies it) a little slower.”
If you’re not sure where to start, you can always consult your bartender for pairing tips, or return to the classic whiskey-lager pairing that’s been popular at dives for decades.
And remember: There’s no wrong way to drink a Boilermaker. Except maybe one. “My one kind of ‘don’t,’ which I have seen before, is somebody just took a shot and poured it into their beer,” says Ginsberg. “That was an interesting one for me.”