The shandy—that fruity micro-brew mix-up of beer and citrus—is this year’s hard cider. You can’t go to a single backyard barbecue without friends and strangers foisting a lemon- or grapefruit-tinged beer on you and spouting advertising copy trending toward bright, zesty, or refreshing. And while a shandy certainly is all that, the beer’s best sales pitch is that it’s replaced the Bud Light Lime-a-Rita as the drink I’m forced to poach from other people’s coolers this summer. Luckily, I have some history with the combination of beer and citrus in the form of the orange beer.
First introduced to me by my older brother as post-party curative, the combination of orange juice and a cold beer has long been my go-to morning-after drink. That the recipe should come by the way of my straight-laced sibling who suffers such debilitating hangovers that he can probably count his lifetime total of benders on one hand just lends credence to its lifesaving properties. I, on the other hand, require all ten fingers (and a couple of toes) to add up the number of times I’ve needed an orange beer in the a.m. this summer alone.
The bloody mary may be the go-to morning drink of drinkers, but I’d rather opt for the less filling, tastes-great option that a cheap lager topped with orange juice provides. While it doesn’t coat the stomach like all that tomato juice, or lead to an accidental day-drunk like vodka does, an orange beer does go down surprisingly smoothly before noon. The acid in the orange juice cuts the beer’s carbonation so the bottom of the glass comes fast, jump-starting the healing process (and the morning buzz). A hit of vitamin C fires up the liver after all the abuse it took the night before. (And provides a much-needed excuse to drink when battling that lingering summer cold.)
The orange beer comes together lot easier than a bloody mary too. No mixing of multiple liquids, sprinkling of spices or dashes of Worcestershire. No searching through the crisper for the last wilted celery stick. Just crack open a can, take a sip and top with a splash of Minute Maid for a full dose of medicine in ten seconds or less. A good barman at the your local will have a beer on the bar in a frosted mug—jelly jar of OJ set to the side—the minute he sees you blot out the morning sun pouring in through the doorway.
The ratio of beer to juice is best left up to the imbiber, for only he or she knows just the right cut to fit the mood. A particularly rough start may require a straightforward fifty-fifty mixture. Generally, I find the precise measurement of one-half inch of juice in a pint glass will do for all but the most crushing of hangovers. In those rare cases, it’s best to go straight back to bed, as no amount of alcohol, aspirin, or McMuffins will save the day.
One last word on ordering an orange beer. Ask for one uptown and you’ll get a look of confusion from your handlebar-mustachioed mixologist, but join the third-shifters during 7 a.m. happy hour and the only question you’ll get from the tatted-up barmaid is how much orange juice you want with your $1 draft. In college bars, you can get away with calling for a brass monkey (though it’s worth noting the Beastie Boys’ brass monkey was actually a premixed canned cocktail of orange juice, vodka, and rum) and in certain trying-too-hard brunch spots you’ll see it listed on a menu as the (shudder) beermosa or (shudder and vomit) manmosa.
No matter what it goes by, the orange beer has a place at the breakfast table. Like Shakespeare’s rose, by any other name—even the shandy—an orange beer should taste so sweet.
A full-time freelancer, David Draper is a Contributing Editor at Field & Stream and writes the Fare Game cooking column for Petersen’s Hunting magazine. His favorite non-liquid breakfast is anything wrapped in a flour tortilla, but is particularly partial to elk chorizo and eggs.