The next time you reach for a beer, you may want to look to the rest of your bar.
Beer as a cocktail ingredient isn’t a revolutionary idea. It’s long played a part in drinkmaking. The original flips, concocted in the late 1600s, were made with beer, rum, sugar and whole egg, and served hot.
According to Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery and the editor of “The Oxford Companion to Beer,” early punches often contained beer, although it wasn’t in there to make the drink sparkling. Rather, he said, “it added undertones of malt flavor and fleshed and smoothed out the overall feeling of the drink.”
These days, the cocktails can be simple, made of a combination of beers (pale and dark brews in a classic Black and Tan) or beer plus another ingredient (lemonade in a Shandy, or Champagne alongside stout in a Black Velvet). Or they can be even more complex, with the addition of spirits and liqueurs. However they’re mixed, beer-based drinks tend to be low in alcohol, high in flavor and are often relatively easy and inexpensive.
When choosing a beer, keep in mind that many styles — especially those of the craft variety — are brewed with a lot going on.
“Beer can sometimes be confused with having a one- or two-dimensional flavor spectrum, when, in reality, it has a larger breadth of flavors than wines and, perhaps, spirits themselves,” said Lily Waite, a beer writer based in London and founder of the Queer Brewing Project.
Lean in to the bitterness and acidity of the beers you use, or choose one specifically to help the other ingredients shine. Hoppy I.P.A.s play differently with ingredients than, say, a crisp pilsner or an acid-forward sour. In regard to spirits, Ms. Waite recommends pairing lighter, fruitier beers with a lighter rum or vodka and heavier, richer beers with whiskey, rum or brandy.
As ever, drink what you like, but bear in mind that a beer cocktail may be just the place for a beer you might not drink 12 ounces of on its own. Go for something more fruit-forward or acidic or simply new to you, and let the spirits and liqueurs you pair with it temper to taste.
And one more note: To keep your beer bubbly, especially if you’re adding ice, you’ll want to rethink how you build the drink.
“When beer physically hits the ice, you lose the carbonation,” Mr. Oliver said. To prevent that, he suggests adding the ice at the end.
Skew refreshing and crisp on a long, hot summer day, or delve into darker, more robust brews when temperatures fall. Whatever your pleasure, the next time you pick up a six pack, reserve one, or all, to mix into a cocktail — and raise a glass to this inspired (but not exactly new) way of enjoying a cold one.