Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How Snakebites and Bleach Can Quench Your Thirst and Let's Play Dead!

Have you ever quenched your thirst with a Snakebite? No? How about Chlorine Bleach? I know what you're thinking: Are you crazy? They're poison. They'll kill you. Not if you drink them my way....

"Snakebites" and "Chlorine Bleach"
are types of shandies...

Cleo Coyle, who sips Blue
Moons by moonlight, is
author of The Coffeehouse
I never heard of a shandy until I traveled to the UK, where pub life introduced me to the delights of this drink, along with a "ploughman’s lunch," but that's another post.

The shandy I drank, which was a mix of Harp beer and carbonated lemonade, was love at first sip. Bright, refreshing, a delightful summer cooler! Unfortunately, after I returned to America, bartenders shook their heads when I ordered one.

Mixing beer with lemonade? Please. In my hometown, bartenders poured you an Iron City or Rolling Rock off the tap—and that was it. Mixing it with lemonade made as much sense as mixing it with chlorine bleach, which is (ironically) exactly what certain regions of Spain call their version of a shandy. :)

Well, it's over 20 years later and American bars regularly serve Mexican beers (e.g., Corona) with a wedge of lime or lemon.

BTW – I always wondered why this was done. One source claims adding lime and lemon to these beers hides a type of spoilage known as skunking, which comes from exposure to light or heat during shipping—an especially common problem with beer shipped in clear bottles.

A squeeze of citrus was supposed to mask this defect, and according to at least one Texan I know, the citrus also "keeps the flies out of your beer." :)

These days, even standard American brands like Bud and Miller are marketing a variety of bottled beer already mixed with lime. My favorite of this new trend comes from the Coors brewery in Colorado, which introduced a very nice line of bottled beers with citrus notes, under the Blue Moon label. (I could drink these babies all day...)

Like many lagers, Brooklyn is
a bit bitter. For me, it didn't
work in a shandy. I also
found the Sprite too sweet
and cloying.


Generally speaking, a shandy is a lager beer mixed with a citrus-beverage like lemonade, or a citrus-flavored soda (such as Sprite or 7-Up). The proportions are generally half-and-half, but almost everyone (including me) adjusts to taste.

NOTE #1: I've tasted many versions and concluded that lagers (like the Brooklyn Lager in my photo at the right) are too bitter to use for a shandy. I strongly recommend using a pale lager like Heineken, Corona, Amstel Light, Rolling Rock, Michelob, Coors Light, or the Japanese Sapporo.

For more on pale lagers, click here.

NOTE #2: Frankly, I find Sprite and 7-UP to be too sweet and cloying for the drink. For my taste, the very best shandy will always be made with lemonade...

As for the Snakebite and Chlorine Bleach, you'll find them listed below, along with some other names for this drink...

SHANDYGRAFF, as it's known in the UK, is a mixture of beer and ginger beer or ginger ale.

LAGER TOPS is also served in the UK; it's made by pouring a layer of non-carbonated lemonade or freshly-squeezed lime juice over the top of a beer before serving.

BLACK SHANDY is enjoyed in Canada; it uses stout (instead of lager) with a carbonated citrus soda.

OLD GROUCH ("Brummbär") is Germany's mixture of stout and cola.

SNAKEBITE is an American version that uses beer and hard (alcoholic) cider. (Note: See the comments section of this post for a note from Riley/Elizabeth on this drink.)

DEVIL is Belgium’s version of a Snakebite. 

PANCAHE, served in Italy and French-speaking Switzerland, is a shandy made with lemon-lime soda (e.g. 7-UP or Sprite).

STING ("pika") is the name for this same drink in Basque, Spain.

CHLORINE BLEACH ("leija") is apparently what they call this drink in Spain’s Guipuscoa region!

To read more about the differences among lager, ale, stout, and porter, click here.

The link will take you to Riley Adams' (Elizabeth Spann Craig's) informative post for this blog: A Side Order of Beer.

Finally, here's how I make
a shandy in Queens, New York...


Per serving...

1 glass or mug (frosted is suggested)

1 bottle of pale lager beer (trust me, use a pale lager*, other lagers are too bitter)

Lemonade (carbonated is traditional, but I use non-carbonated and enjoy it. You can also make your own carbonated lemonade by mixing fresh lemonade with club soda.)

Method: First pour the beer into your glass. Add the lemonade. To what ratio? I recommend 3-parts beer to 1-part lemonade. You’ll enjoy a refreshing citrus note without flattening or overwhelming the beer.

*As mentiond in my post above, examples of pale lagers include (but are not limited to) the brands: Heineken, Corona, Amstel Light, Rolling Rock, Michelob, Coors Light, or the Japanese Sapporo.

Drink with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

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  1. Great post, Cleo! Funny thing is that when I was a studying-abroad student in the UK, a slightly different version of the Snakebite was banned! Which was horrifying, because it was really good. :) I guess someone gotten bitten by it. But it had alcoholic cider, beer, and I think a liquor in it. Strong, though!

    This summer shandy looks delicious and refreshing! Thanks so much for the recipe...can't wait to try it!

  2. Ah, yes...The first time I went to the UK I couldn't stand beer, so shandy was an acceptable compromise. Of course, once I discovered ale and Guinness I moved on.

    Don't you love the wonderful names people give alcoholic beverages? One of my favorite ales is Old Peculiar.

  3. Congrats, Sheila!!!

    Cleo, great post. I was lucky enough during college to travel to Europe. I was introduced to beer with peppermint schnapps. It was fabulous and made all of my fellow students good at chess, or at least we thought so. Memories! I can't drink beer any longer unless it's gluten-free. There are a few.

  4. Reply to...

    @Elizabeth/Riley - Thank you for the info! I went back into the post and made a little note under Snakebite. The drink is indeed banned in England and Ireland (based on drink mixing laws), but some sources do say it's because the drink is so effective at getting you drunk! LOL!

    Thanks also for that informative past post on beers. A great link for anyone to learn more about the differences and get some good suggestions on brands.

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Reply to...

    @Sheila - "Old Peculiar" is great name for a bottle of spirits. :) Guinness is a favorite of mine, too, and I polished off many a pint when I got to the pubs in Dublin and Connemara. But it's just too heavy for me in the summer heat. I loves me my Mexican beers at this time of year! And, finally...

    I must raise a *virtual* pint to you on the release of your new Museum Mystery: LET'S PLAY DEAD!

    ~ Cleo

  6. Reply to...

    @Avery - Beer and peppermint schnapps! That is wild, but if it improves my chess game, I'll try it. :) Also very good to know that there are gluten free alternatives, as well, thank you for mentioning that.

    Finally, your note about the schnapps (And E's note on the Snakebite) inspired me to do a bit more research on this cocktail. Fun stuff...

    From Wisegeek.com –

    "The variations on the snakebite are nearly endless, often involving added ingredients. Poison snakebites, also called shark bites, add an additional shot of alcohol.

    A Tarantula adds Jack Daniel’s whiskey and Coke, while a—

    Red Witch contains one shot of pernod, an anise flavored liqueur, and one shot of vodka.

    A Champagne Bite replaces the hard cider with champagne, and may also contain a splash of crème de cassis or black currant liqueur.

    An Irish version of the Snakebite, using Guinness stout and Bulmer’s or Magner's Irish cider, makes a great St. Patrick’s Day drink.

    You may also want to serve a similar beer cocktail, the black and tan. This drink, named after the uniforms of a military force during the Irish war of Independence, is a blend of a stout such as Guinness and a pale ale or pale lager. A black and tan may be a good way to introduce people to beer cocktails, as a snakebite may sound a little unusual to cocktail beginners."

    Cheers, Avery, have a great day!
    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. I was drinking Leinenkugel Shandy's this weekend. Now I'm going to have to pay a visit to our local brew pub to pick up supplies to make them myself! By the way, that pub has a version called a Jack Wagon - stout and root beer. Yum!

  8. Way back when Hubster was doing his marine mammal field work, the variation on this was a "Skip and Go Naked" which was made up of beer, booze (