Photo: Allison Shoemaker

A beermosa is insanely easy to make—about as easy as, say, a mi-mosa. Beer, pale; orange juice, cold. Add the former to the latter. Sip. Repeat.

Sometimes the simplest route is best. I have had my share of beermosas that were as simple as they were satisfying. (They were very satisfying.) But they don’t have to be that easy. Why needlessly overcomplicate something? Why take what already works and add a bunch of stuff? Because it is my nature, that’s why; for better or for worse, I like to add things, and try things, and change things. And because sometimes, when you make shit more complicated, you wind up with something delicious.

My friend Kate isn’t like that, but when I asked her to help me meddle, just a little, with the beermosa, she was fully on-board. In her case, it’s because of a curious palate, a fondness we share for the drink—it’s a college thing—and a bone-deep love of beer. But mostly, I suspect, it’s because she’s a great friend. Our lives used to include a lot of sitting around together, shooting the shit and acting like fools; now they’re full of jobs, side-jobs, partners, worries, much earlier bedtimes and most of the time, a great deal more sense. Add in the world’s sweetest baby (hers) and our lives are much more complicated (and delicious) than they used to be. A chance for us to sit around and shoot the shit, all in the name of better beer cocktails, is one I’d never pass up, and I’d guess it’s the same for her.

So there we sat one evening, making breakfast drinks, then drinking them. We had a few questions we were determined to answer:

  • What’s the best beer (or beers) for a beermosa?
  • What’s the ideal ratio of O.J. to beer, and does that ratio change depending on the beer?
  • What other, relatively simple, ingredients might improve our favorite excuse to drink beer in the morning?

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We started by stealing an idea from Bell’s Brewery.

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, where I went to college, Oberon was the first sign of summer, so their citrusy wheat ale was a must-try. We were also intrigued by the idea of sparkling wine, but tweaked things a little: rather than focusing on percentages, we started with three parts beer to one part orange juice, adding beer until it tasted right. With this (and most of the beers we tried), we hit the sweet spot at five-to-one, beer-to-O.J.. Then we took our sparkling wine—a cava brut—and poured a float on top.

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The result was pretty great. The wine had some citrus and mineral notes, but honestly, it just made the drink a little more effervescent and festive while adding some complexity to the aroma.

From there, we tried all kinds of things. Kate works as an events ambassador for Brooklyn Brewery, which means she also works with 21st Amendment and Funkwerks. She knows those beers really, really well, so she worked up a lineup for us to try, and I brought along a few others, including one absolutely necessary beer for such a project: the Champagne of Beers, Miller High Life.

Seeing as we liked the float of sparkling wine, we resolved to keep trying with that one. Before arriving at Kate’s, I played around with some additional juice combinations, but none worked as well with my base beer—High Life—as plain old orange juice. And because we share a fondness for bitters, we decided to see if adding a few drops of barrel-aged aromatic bitters made any difference. It did!

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Kate couldn’t find her jigger, so we made do with what was at hand.
Photo: Allison Shoemaker

Some beers didn’t work at all. We didn’t even attempt a stout, porter, or other dark beer. I tried a sour beer on my own, and the results weren’t great. Others seemed somewhat likely to work—21st Amendment’s Blood Orange Brew Free! or Die IPA, for example—but just didn’t. Some were too bitter, others too sweet. There were a few pleasant surprises—Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was a nice base beer, though it needed both the wine and the bitters to really sing—but in the end, we wound up with four beers that were tops, each with a slightly different formula for greatness.

Without a doubt, the best combination we tried was the simplest, which is probably a good lesson for a try-hard like me. Brooklyn Brewery’s Summer Ale worked brilliantly with orange juice at a six-to-one ratio. Other ingredients didn’t hurt it, but nor did they improve the combination. This was one of the last options we tried, and at that point quite a lot of beer and juice had been consumed. I worried maybe it had just tasted so good because lots of things taste really good when you’re a bit befuddled. Upon second tasting some time later: Still insanely tasty, and it comes out a gorgeous color. It’s a pale ale that’s really clean and slightly bitter, with a floral aroma and some faintly citrusy notes; the juice emphasizes the last and complemented the others.

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The next great discovery was a 21st Amendment beer called El Sully, which I’ve heard others describe as “what you want Corona to be.” It’s got a light grassy thing going on, but mostly it’s a crushable summer beer (and sits at 5 percent ABV, so it’s also sessionable). Like the Bell’s concoction, this one was great at a five-to-one beer-to-juice ratio  with a sparkling wine float; Kate and I both liked it with three drops of aromatic bitters, but also liked it without. For what it’s worth, this is also the beer we switched to after we couldn’t possibly drink any more juice. (It was a long night.)

Last, hand to god, is the Champagne of Beers. The great thing about Miller High Life is that, if you get it in the big tallboy cans, you can continue to fiddle with the ratio as you drink, since you’ll definitely have beer left over. It’s also so, shall we say, unassuming that it’s very easy to dress up. Think of High Life as a neutral wardrobe staple. As long as you don’t go totally crazy, it’s easy to dress up.

Photo: Allison Shoemaker

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I have friends who swear that the only true beermosa is half beer, half mosa. They’re wrong, but this one came closest to their recipe. Miller High Life was best at a four-to-one beer-to-juice ratio. We did a slightly bigger pour of sparkling wine as a float, and added six drops of aromatic bitters. Without those last two items, it was fine, but couldn’t compete with the combinations above. But with these additions, it was pretty damn good. Much brighter, fresher, and more complex than we expected. If Summer Ale was the clear gold medal winner, then this was a solid second place.

So, about those questions:

  • What’s the best beer (or beers) for a beermosa? Depends on your personal taste, but for the most part, lighter is better.
  • What’s the ideal ratio of O.J. to beer, and does that ratio change depending on the beer? It absolutely changes, but we always started at four-to-one and went from there. Five-to-one was usually a pretty solid sweet spot.
  • What other, relatively simple, ingredients might improve our favorite excuse to drink beer in the morning? Aromatic bitters; dry, white sparkling wine; an orange wheel. Heaven.

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Drinking breakfast drinks in the dark with one of my oldest friends was a treat; all the combinations could have been horrid and it would still have been a wonderful way to spend an evening. But we had such a good time making our simple little beermosas that we’re spending our summer making up beer cocktails. Here’s that beermosa recipe, again, for posterity.

Allison and Kate’s Boffo Beermosa

  • 16 oz. Miller High Life (tallboy can)
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • A splash of cava
  • 6 drops aromatic bitters

Combine beer with orange juice. Top with cava, then add bitters. Drink.

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DrinkeryDrinkery is The Takeout's celebration of beer, liquor, coffee, and other potent potables.