Forget what you think you know about beer cocktails. Forget the bland, tasteless concoctions that look and taste like an afterthought to real drinks. It’s time for real beer to claim its place on the top shelf of every cocktail bar in the country as an indispensible ingredient.
We’re teaming up with some of the UK’s leading mixologists to create six amazing and original ‘Hoptails’ that you’re definitely going to want to try. These are all about flavour, taste and celebrating and integrating the crafts of beer brewing and cocktail design.
Given no constraints, these leading mixologists have been free to let their imaginations run wild. The only core requisite is that they start with the base of Budweiser Budvar beer, working with the unmistakable aroma of whole-cone Saaz hops and the rich tones of the barley malts from the Haná Valley in Moravia, all matured in our brewery for 90 days.
This commitment to locality, process and provenance gives Budvar a real and complex flavour profile, making it a perfect partner to the artisan spirit of modern cocktail making. Elevating and celebrating these flavours, each hoptail is designed to complement or contrast Budvar’s hop and malt tones, bringing other ingredients into the shaker to create a cocktail that transcends the sum of its parts, while always respecting the taste and qualities of its core ingredient, the beer.
But what are beer cocktails? To some they might just sound like two words written next to each other on a menu; others may have noticed them gracing the countertops of cool bars from Brooklyn to Bristol. But in fact, hoptails are nothing new. You can actually trace them back a cool 2,775 years to King Midas.
Archeological research by the Smithsonian has found that Midas was a fan of a mix of mead and wine with his beer, getting out his bronze-age cocktail shaker for taste’s sake. Early beer was grain-based and so pre-dated the discovery of hops – which adds much of the flavour to the beer – by almost 2000 years. In the intervening years all kinds of plants, herbs and spices were trialed to make this utilitarian brew more palatable. In Europe, this resulted in flavouring mixes like medieval ‘gruit’: a heady combination of wild plants like mugwort, yarrow, ground ivy, horehound and spices like ginger, caraway, juniper and, er, twigs…if you were in Scandinavia.
Fortunately beer cocktails have come a long way from twigs and horehound. And it’s no coincidence that their popularity has happened at the same time as the meteoric rise in brewing and beer culture across the UK. Last year alone saw over 500 breweries opening their doors and there are now more colours, textures and flavours in our beer than ever before, opening up a veritable alchemist’s cabinet for mixologists to work their magic on. Because one thing is for sure: beer cocktails are pointless if the beer doesn’t taste of anything.
With Budvar Hoptails, we’re raising the bar for beer cocktails and showcasing how beer can be a standalone ingredient that brings together the brewing aficionado and the cocktail connoisseur. So let’s get going.
THE CZECH PUNCH
We start with a bang. First up is Nino Lopes, a bona fide guru behind the bar who’s earned a stellar reputation working top spots from Paris to New York and a shelf of awards for his cocktail creations along the way. In 2011, he settled in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and opened The Maven. With its speakeasy style décor, it exudes all the class and cool of a Prohibition-era bar. And despite the cheekily hidden doorway, it is always rammed with devotees. Nino’s cocktail “The Czech Punch” is fresh, bold, fruity but full-bodied too with the hit of the rum, the sweetness of the apricot jam and fresh peach and the zing of the lemon all working perfectly with the Budvar’s hoppy, bitter and sweet notes. The perfect summer drink and BBQ must-have.
When I was 19, I won a cocktail competition that first took me to New York and where I had to do a talk about the European cocktail culture. The guy there introduced me onstage as a young ‘maven’, a word I’d never heard before and it always stayed in my head. I researched it when creating this place and found out it meant a trusted expert in a particular field, someone who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. And that pretty much sums up my ethos. After many years of hard work, sacrifice and trying to pick up everything, I got to open this bar and share what I’ve been lucky to learn.You used to be footballer and were at the same academy as Ronaldo. What did those years teach you?
That it’s good to be fit and stay fit. Bar work and making cocktails means being on your toes all night and a lot of physical stuff, so your body needs to be able to handle it.
The world has been crying out in the last few years for great beer cocktails. The ever-expanding range and style of excellent beer means a huge variety to the flavours open to barmen and mixologists. Now is the time to harness these flavours and get creative.How did you come up with the cocktail “The Czech Punch”?
What I wanted to celebrate about Budweiser Budvar is those light, citrus, floral hop tones; the smooth, sweet and yet slightly bitter notes. It’s got real deep, quality flavours and I wanted to take those as the jump-off and run with them. So I played with the sweetness bringing in the apricot jam, fresh peaches from Leeds market and the passion fruit syrup. The zing and citrus is echoed in the fresh lemon. In a way The Czech Punch is somewhere between a breakfast Martini, a passion fruit daiquiri and an incredible cold beer, but it’s designed as a long summer cocktail that makes the most of Budvar’s flavours. It’s refreshing in an evening or on a hot day around a barbecue.What one tip would you give about making a great cocktail?
Sometimes less is more.
THE CZECH PUNCH(Makes one)
1 Bottle of Budweiser Budvar
1 Fresh peach
20ml Passion fruit syrup (Monin do a good one)
25ml of any white rum
Squeeze the juice from the lemon and add 25ml to half the peach, sliced, in a cocktail shaker. ‘Muddle’ (smash) together. Add two barspoons (a teaspoon and a half) of apricot jam, 25ml of white rum and 20ml of passion fruit syrup. Fill a glass with ice and leave to stand, then fill the shaker with ice.
Strain into the glass and top up with a cold, freshly opened Budweiser Budvar. Add a twist of lemon zest for decoration and serve.