April Fool’s day is only funny if you’re a fabled scholar and few human beings are sufficiently well-informed to challenge your high jinks, or you’re a 12-year-old trying to convince a younger sibling that rabbit droppings are in fact chocolate covered raisins.
Barney Toy, bar manager at London’s Alice-in-wonderland inspired Little Bat (from the team behind legendary drinking hole Callooh Callay), however, has crafted an April Fool’s gag that we can joyfully get on board with: a large, fizzing tankard of citrus-spiced whisky, masquerading as a humble pint of beer.
“It’s a cool surprise,” says Toy of his creation. “It looks like a big frosty mug of ale, but actually it’s a sweet, fruity cocktail. Topped with beer.”
Weaving together a light malt and toasty ale with vivid grapefruit and zestful lime might indeed sound farcical, but beer-based cocktails have a long and seasonal lineage, dating back to the 17th century when the flip first became popular. Beer – or mead – was in plentiful supply, and during the biting winter months, it was heated and coddled with whisky, eggs and sugar in order to warm the cockles (and enliven the spirits, of course).
Likewise, recent years have seen buoyant, refreshing beer cocktails surge in popularity during the sultry summer months, with lemon and lime playing frequent bedfellows to the cardinal ingredient.
The Grumpy Thompson, with its spiced whisky barrel bitters, (“bitters are like salt and pepper for cocktails: they fill in the gaps”) straddles both species, making it the perfect year-rounder.
“The syrup, made with Newcastle Brown Ale and soft, dark sugar, adds a bitter-sweet note to the cocktail, which rounds out the flavour but also highlights the fresh citrus palate,” says Toy. “Conversely, the ale adds a warm, nutty, malty dimension.”
And just who is this Grumpy Thompson?
“Simon Thompson, the manager at Callooh Callay, is from Newcastle and is a grumpy (loveable) character. This one’s for him.”
Grumpy Thompson’s Ale
80ml Monkey Shoulder
80ml “Grumpy Northern” syrup
50ml fresh pink grapefruit juice
50ml fresh lime juice
8 dashes whisky barrel bitters
120ml Newcastle Brown Ale
‘Grumpy Northern’ Syrup
375ml Newcastle Brown Ale
175g demerara sugar
Frosted beer mug
- Start by making the Grumpy Northern syrup. Add the contents of the can of Newcastle Brown Ale into a pan and, over a medium heat, reduce the liquid by half. When reduced, add the sugar and stir well until completely combined. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Pour into a sealable bottle or container and set aside until needed.
- Now assemble the cocktail. Add the whisky, syrup, grapefruit and lime juices and bitters to a cocktail shaker, along with the cubed ice. Shake well.
- Pour the cocktail and ice into your chilled beer glass. Top with more ice if needed.
- Top up the glass with the Newcastle Brown Ale and serve.
From delicious to stratospheric…
“Always use fresh ingredients and as much ice as you can fit in the glass: it should be as cold as possible. If you can, serve the drink in a metal tankard.”
“Monkey shoulder is a great option here as it’s not too dominant, but any softer Speyside-style whisky would work. A mild, malty ale would work in place of the Newcastle Brown. If you can’t find whisky barrel bitters, Angostura bitters are an easy alternative.”