Shandy beer cocktail: Refreshing summertime drink

BevX Beer Shandy
Shandy beer cocktail, photo courtesy of

Sean Ludford is a regular contributor to He is a veteran beverage educator and publishes at

Summer is here, allowing all of us who live in a four season climate to enjoy the things that only summer can bring. For me – bring on the shandy (or radler if you prefer) perhaps the greatest beer cocktail.

Like so many drinks the origins of the shandy beer cocktail are fuzzy and hotly debated. Some have suggested that the drink’s origins are found with Henry VIII who enjoyed the beverage in times of marital discord. It’s hard to imagine this, since a few shandies could never leave one in the mood to separate your spouse’s head from her body. However, he may have had issues well beyond the mood lifting properties of the shandy.

Early shandies, known fully as shandygaff, the gaff is believed to be some sort of contraction of ginger and half-and-half, was a simple 50/50 mix of beer and ginger beer. Through the years, the shandy has evolved to include lemonade and other citrus-based soft drinks mixed with beer.

In recent years, the shandy beer cocktail and its lost German twin, the radler, have become extremely popular in the U.S. Today, it’s commonplace to find commercial bottlings of shandies from American craft and regional producers, as well as imports from Germany and Austria. While beers are becoming increasingly more potent, a 50/50 mix of beer and soft drink is a welcome choice in the hot summer months when hydration is key.

While the commercial shandy offerings are often delicious it’s a shame that the homemade shandy is somewhat of a rarity. Most bars offer a quality ginger beer so the ingredients are there. However, the beautiful simplicity of the drink inspires the introduction of your favorite lemonade to be improved with the addition of a cold, fizzy beer.

Beer Styles I like for the New Classic Shandy

The style of beer utilized for the shandy is obviously important while being rather logical. It’s easy to see that a Pilsner is great while a Chocolate Stout is a regrettable choice. Styles I like for the shady include: Dortmunder, Helles, Pale Ale, Pilsner, or Wit.

BevX Citrus-adeMy Favorite Citrus-ade for the Shandy Beer Cocktail

– 1 1/2 cups of freshly squeezed citrus (I like a combo of lemon, lime, and grapefruit)
– 1 cup of citrus simple syrup (1 cup each of water and sugar with sugar fully dissolved in boiling water. Remove from the heat and add strips of the peel of one lemon and one lime. Cool, strain and refrigerate the syrup.)
– 2 cups of soda water

Mix the fresh juice and citrus simple syrup in pitcher, stirring to combine. Add soda and give a quick, gentle stir. Mix 50/50 ratio citrusade to beer of your choice. If you desire more or less beer, add or subtract accordingly but I like the 50/50 ratio.

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