Cocktail-inspired beers are a new style of beverage that inventive brewers have brought to our attention in recent years. The experimental spirits (no pun intended) of brewers like Pipeworks Brewing, Brooklyn Brewery, and Two Roads Brewing have been begging enthusiastic drinkers’ tasteful exploring by turning everything from a Manhattan to an Old Fashioned to a Margarita into drinkable, clinkable brews that beg for a garnish.
These won’t necessarily replace the real thing, but they’re fun for beer and spirits drinkers alike. They’re also a good option for those looking for something a little lighter in alcohol than most high-ABV mixed drinks. Here, we’ve ranked six cocktail-inspired, or otherwise cocktail-emulating, brews that are worth giving a try next time you’re out of bitters.
Pipeworks is famous for its mock cocktail beers, which have included the Big Lebowski-inspired, White Russian-imitating Hey, Careful, Man, There’s a Beverage in Here, an imperial milk stout that is itself milky white; a Margarita-emulating Kwingston’s Kitty Cat-ina Meow-Garita Inspired Pale Ale, brewed with agave nectar, smoked wheat, lime, orange zest, and salt; and Mojito Madness, featuring mint, coconut, and key lime juice.
Brown & Stirred, a collaboration with Chicago’s contemporary inn, Longman & Eagle, is inspired by the Manhattan cocktail — a mix of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and cherry garnish —brewed with rye malt, fresh cherries, bitter roots, and lemon peel. It pours a deep auburn color with fine carbonation. A Maraschino cherry sweetness dominates the nose, along with some spicy notes from the rye, but that sugary sweetness carries through like this strong ale was mixed with fruit punch or another cherry-dominant juice. The ambitious tipple finishes bitter, but takes us in more of a dessert direction than the cocktail itself. If you like your Manhattans sweet, this brew’s for you.
One of Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyn Quarterly Experiment (BQE) series, this 2016 release that’s still circulating takes a laser-focused shot at the Old Fashioned cocktail, transforming it into beer form. Mirroring the Old Fashioned’s rye, Demerara syrup, Angostura bitters, and lemon and orange twists, this expertly executed experimental brew starts with a strong rye ale, adds Demerara sugar, Belgian candi syrup, bitter orange peel, lemon peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, bitter gentian root, and cloves, then lays it to rest in WhistlePig Rye Whiskey oak barrels. It’s all the rye, herb, and citrus you get from America’s No. 1 cocktail in beer form, and it’s worth a try if you’re able to find it.
G&T Gose is one in an adventurous lineup of goses from Anderson Valley, which also includes a Blood Orange Gose, Briney Melon Gose, and Framboise Rose Gose. This iteration (formerly known as GT Gose) mimics the gin and tonic cocktail with post-boil additions of lemon peel, juniper berries, and lemongrass; and later additions (during fermentation) of cucumber, salt, and cinchona bark.
Move over, Westbrook Key Lime Gose. Two Roads may not have set out to make a Margarita beer, but when it mixed the salty, tart traditional gose and added fresh Persian lime juice from a local juicery —along with the unique addition of flaked rye to add a bit of richness to this beer style’s requisite wheat — the result was a lightly spiced beverage that bumps Margarita’s spot at our brunch table. Don’t believe us? Serve it in a Margarita glass with a lime wedge, and call us in the morning.
Other Half and J. Wakefield may not have marketed this beer collaboration as a Bellini beer, but as far as we’re concerned, that’s irrelevant. Florida Plates 2, a collaboration between the two brewers (following another collab, Florida Plates), is a one-off that won’t be around for long, but is worth seeking out if you’re in need of a brunch beer. A double IPA, or “imperial spelt cream IPA,” as its description reads, brewed with passion fruit and peach and hopped with Citra and Galaxy, this beer is the best Bellini replacement we’ve tasted in a while.
St. Louis, Mo.
Schlafly’s take on the Kentucky Mule, itself a take on the Moscow Mule, is ginger spiced, refreshing, and deviously drinkable. Brewed with lime juice, ginger, and bourbon barrel chips, this brewed infusion drinks like fresh ginger beer with a soothing bourbon warmth and kick of lime, making it a great alternative to enable and enhance all-day, bourbon-adjacent sipping.