The very first drink my father ever made for me — the first drunk not behind his back in some friend's basement but in our basement, with him — was a shandy. That must be part of the reason I love them, but that shouldn't detract from the fact that a properly made shandy just might be the most refreshing alcoholic beverage on earth.
Granted, it is barely an alcoholic beverage at all, or one with training wheels, made with equal parts ice-cold beer and ice-cold ginger ale or ginger beer, finished perhaps with a spritz of lime or lemon, maybe a shave of ginger, all placed in a large tumbler filled with so much crushed ice it could not possibly hold another sliver.
That first sip was such a slap it felt like my thirst had amnesia.
Why did it taste so good?
Maybe because it was the fact that I was well south of the drinking age, and in that moment my father chose not to care. Maybe it was because pouring beer on ice is weirdly transgressive, especially when you live in Milwaukee, as we did. (Choose a dry one, like a pilsner, or a pale lager, like Tecate, Sol, even Corona — obviously nothing pricey.) Or perhaps it was because I'd had, but hadn't yet appreciated, the hot tang of ginger ale, a dry adult beverage with a gravelly texture and peppery bite, less sweet than most soft drinks, more adult than any pop, whose bitter edge the beer somehow wedged into my thirst.
Anyway, if you've never had one, try it — you'll be surprised at how refreshing it is. And if you have, try it again, to remember what you've forgotten.
You may wish to make this adult beverage a tad more adult with a floater of one of several ginger liqueur products around, like Domaine de Canton, made with cognac, or The King's Ginger, which sounds like a euphemism for Prince Harry, but is in fact a spicy poke in the eye devised by the eminent London wine & spirit merchant Berry Brothers.
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