In the middle of the 19th century, iceboxes became popular, and people started to consume ice-cold drinks on a regular basis. Then English drinkers took a monumental step in beer cocktail history by adding refreshing chilled pop to their favourite brews. Originally called a “shandygaff,” the shandy was made with ginger ale at first, but lemonade eventually became a more popular mixer.
Fast-forward to 1920s Germany, and the shandy’s close cousin, the radler, was born—reportedly when tavern keeper Franz Xaver Kugler had to serve an unexpectedly large crowd of thirsty cyclists on a hot day (radler means “cyclist” in German). He made his dwindling supply of beer go further by adding lemonade.
Nearly a century later, Canadians are mad for radlers, and they don’t have to make their own from scratch. There’s a wide variety of premixed versions available at The Beer Store; they’re ready to drink when you’re looking for a little refreshment. Just crack one open and enjoy.
If you’re up for mixing your own special blend, though, you can add grapefruit- or lemon-flavoured pop to your favourite lager to create a custom radler. It’s easy.
How to make your own radler
Start with a lager you like and a tall beer glass. You’ll need some sort of fizzy citrus mixer, too, obviously. The fancy lemonades that come in glass bottles are perfect for this. Slowly pour lager into the glass (holding the glass at an angle, so the beer doesn’t froth up too much) and then add the mixer. Start with a fifty-fifty blend and see if you like it, and then tailor the proportions to your taste. Stir very gently with a long spoon or chopstick, take a sip and enjoy that tangy, refreshing taste.
What to try next? Here are a few more shandy- and radler-style drinks from around the world.
- It’s no surprise that tropical Singapore—where the average temperature stays above 30°C all year—has devised the Kip Lin, a mixture of pale lager and chilled tonic water. The result is a dry, crisp, light-tasting drink that’s ready to beat the most oppressive heat.
- Popular in Mexico, a michelada is a beer drink that can include tomato or Clamato juice, spices, Worcestershire sauce, lemon or lime juice, and a salted rim. Does that remind you of anything? Yep, a michelada is a kind of beer Caesar. Canadians, of all people, ought to appreciate that!
- Another interesting option comes from Australia. The Portergaff (or Portagaff) mixes fizzy lemonade with porter (or stout) instead of lighter-coloured beer. It’s a shandy, but with a dark side.
- Finally, back in German-speaking Europe, cousins of the radler have flourished since Kugler’s day. Nowadays people employ a number of imaginative combinations of beer and mixer. For example, there’s a lager plus cola blend, which some people call a diesel. Will it ever catch on in Canada? Time will tell.