I've fallen under the spell of a classic summer beverage, the shandy. It doesn't get much simpler to make: First, get some beer, not too dark; lagers and wheat beers work great. Then, get your hands on some sparkling lemonade or citrus-flavored soda like 7-Up. Mix together in equal parts (or to taste) and enjoy. The two go together perfectly, with the soda's sweet citrus playing off the beer's hops and malt as though they were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Since shandies are low in alcohol, you can enjoy them all day without keeling over. On the other hand, if you find your shandy needs a little kick, you can sneak a thimble of vodka or gin in there. If you make your shandy with American lemonade and a shot of vodka, you get a party drink called Strip and Go Naked (but that's another column). There is one problem with a shandy: Sometimes you're so laid back that you'd rather have someone else make it for you, so all you have to do is crack one open and enjoy. What to do?
While a shandy is dead-easy to throw together, excellent bottled ones exist. I can tell you from experience that Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy is not one of them; it tastes like someone took a beer and added Country Time powered lemonade to it. Austrian beer maker Stiegl (rhymes with seagull) has two very nice Radler (what they call a shandy in central Europe; German for cyclist) flavors available in Arizona. The standard lemon shandy is good, but the pink grapefruit version is out of this world. It's well balanced between sweet and tangy like a good cocktail, starting out with clear and bright pink grapefruit flavor, then fading into Stiegl beer's light maltiness. Word among the other bartenders is that it's even better spiked with a little gin.
I keep wanting to have one (or several) after work, but we keep selling out of it as soon as we get it in. Once one person in the bar tries one, all of a sudden everyone is enjoying them. I've seen the pink grapefruit Radler at the booze mega-marts, but a Friendly Local Liquor Store that's well-stocked just might carry it. At $10 to $12 for a six-pack, it's not cheap, but I assure you it's certainly worth it.
That was Last Call, in which JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice. Have a burning question for JK? Leave it in the comments below.