There’s a drink on the cocktail menu of the bar I’ve worked at for many years called the “Sunset.” It’s a mix of peach vodka, coconut rum, banana liqueur and three fruit juices. Fairly basic, but it gets the job done, and it’s aptly named — the juices are layered so the drink looks a bit like a sunset. There are so many times I’ve been behind the bar when a guest has been trying to explain to me what they want, and I already know — they want a Sunset. They want something that isn’t spirit forward (i.e., you can’t taste the booze), they want something fruity, and they’re drawn to pink drinks because for their palate, that is an approachable color that they know they will like. Because of this recurring circumstance, I started repeating a phrase jokingly to my coworkers and to myself, “You can spot a Sunset a mile away.”
The same notion used to go for beer nerds.
Beer enthusiasts, connoisseurs and flat out nerds (in the best way possible, of course) used to fall somewhere along the spectrum of folks wearing some variance of a hoodie from a brewery from Oregon, thick-rimmed glasses and/or a beard and a buddy with whom they’re going to split a beer flight. They also would tell you all about their home-brewing system in their garage at home. Now, there’s nothing wrong with these dudes and their particularity when it comes to their favorite fermented elixir, but with the shake-up and pushed boundaries of the beer industry, there comes a moment when we, as bar folk, truly can’t predict who’ll be the aficionado. Gone are the days when beer devotees fit into a box. Just like beer, they come in all varieties. So, what are brewers and creators doing to push the boundaries to make their products appeal to every demographic? From wild additives to hard seltzers and ciders, to canning cocktails and even cannabinoids appearing in brews, the industry has undergone serious diversification over the last few years. Bartenders are getting more and more creative, subbing beers and seltzers for ingredients in cocktails, creative new riffs on delicious “beertails” and, my favorite, the shandy.
Louisville is lucky enough to be home to some of the greatest shandy creators right now, and, lucky for you, they have a “Shandy of the Week,” rotating with seasonal, all vegan ingredients. False Idol Independent Brewers shares the former space of The Monkey Wrench with local vegan gods, V-Grits, which churns out Southern, cruelty-free goodness and has a full bar showcasing the False Idol crafts. I had a Piña Colada Shandy over the summer when I visited one of its monthly vegan night markets, and it got me hooked on these bubbly, refreshing concoctions. Currently, the Shandy of the Week is a vegan horchata, which is steeped and strained basmati rice in water and cinnamon, blended with the wheat stout Our Lady of Snows and garnished with a toasted marshmallow. “Creamy, dark and complex,” says False Idol. And, after the Pumpkin Maple Shandy from last week, I wouldn’t sleep on this year-old gem.
If you’re feeling swanky and want an innovative beer/cocktail combination, stop by the new Hearth on Mellwood Eatery, housed in the former space of Bistro 1860, the newest brainchild of Jason and Aenith McCollum of Chik’n & Mi. Denis behind the bar has his own riff on a French 75 with gose — The Attitude Adjustment, made with Copper & Kings Floodwall Apple Brandy, lemon, green peppercorn syrup, Ancho Reyes, orange and Central State Brewing Co. Halsdurchshlag Meyer Lemon Gose. Go on, treat yourself and don’t forget, Hearth’s happy hour and patio is to die for. Thank me later.
Want to be able to make your own shandy at home? I’ve got you. Just for fall, y’all, so we can drink up and be as delightfully basic as possible, grab a bottle of Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale, apple cider and ginger beer. Rim a pint glass in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, fill it with ice and add 0.5 ounces of orange liqueur. Add 2 ounces apple cider and 2 ounces ginger beer and fill the rest of the pint glass with the pumpkin ale. Garnish with an orange slice. We used to be able to spot beer drinkers a mile away. Now, we’re pushing the envelope together. Cheers! •