A Short History Of Cooked Beer Cocktails.
Before the days of bottling and refrigeration, fresh beer had a very limited shelf life, and having to waste any brought a tear to many people’s eyes. So like any food item on its way out, people tried to find ways to get just a couple more uses out of it. I’m sure you do this all the time. Strawberries are starting to get soft; make a smoothie. Worried about your gigantic bag of onions getting too old, make French onion soup. There are many things you can do before food turns and during the 17th century cooking beer with honey and spices was one way to mask the flavor of a beer going bad.
Earlier forms of the hot ale flip we simple hot ale and honey drinks, and if you want to find these recipes, you’ll need to look in old cookbooks. One such recipe from the 1669 book “The Closet” by Sir Kenelme Digbie is an ale with a honey recipe specifically for beer that is about to go bad. Sir Kenelme Digbie described cooking old beer with honey would help the turned old beer and “set the whole a working a fresh, and casting out foulness.”
Some very old books had tips and tricks for the old food, but with the invention of commercial refrigeration in the mid-1800s, that stopped being such a big problem. Most of those recipes either got lost to time, but many still live on as things you usually eat—fruit pies, jellies, alcohol, pickles, hell, even banana bread. Hence, most recipes specifically call for nasty old soft brown bananas no one wants to eat. It’s for flavor, but it comes from a much older tradition. Old meat was a little harder to repurpose and was something you needed to persevere before it started to turn. Although old meat could be used as bait to catch fresh meat or go fishing, it must be disposed of once food goes truly bad.
The Right Beer Makes All The Difference.
Not all beer heat up well. Some taste amazing, and some are awful. As mentioned above, cooked beer cocktails like this were usually done to beers that started to turn and lose flavor. So any flavor improvement was an improvement over drinking old beer, but this gives us some interesting insights into which beers heat up best. Generally speaking, I have found that milder and less flavorful beers taste better hot than more robust, darker beers. Check out my article here, where I have taste-tested many different beers to see which make the best flips. What I have noticed is heating a beer up intensifies its flavors. So a beer that is already very flavorful and strong is amplified and becomes completely undrinkable, while a more mild and light beer opens up beautifully. So it makes sense that older beers that had lost some of their flavors made delicious warmed beer cocktails in the past.
Spiced Butter Batter Recipe.
- 1/4 tsp (1.5 g) Ground Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp (1.5 g) Ground Nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp (1.5 g) Ground Clove
- 1/4 tsp (1.5 g) Ground Allspice (or 1/2 tbs: Allspice dram)
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 g) Vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120 g) Brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 g) Unsalted butter
- On very low heat or using a double boiler, just melt the butter and then turn off the heat. Don’t cook and separate the butter. Just melt it.
- Next, add all the other ingredients to the melted butter.
- Stir till the brown sugar has thoroughly mixed in. Cover spiced butter batter and refrigerate.
This recipe will make about a cup (240 grams) of spiced butter batter mix, about 12 drinks. This is good on biscuits, too, and my kids love this spread on toast.
The Authenticity Of This Recipe.
This is not the classic 1594 buttered beer recipe (That recipe is right here). This is my take on a buttered beer. I wanted to make this a hot buttered beer version of an 18th-century Hot Buttered Rum style. I changed the butter part to use the hot buttered rum’s spiced butter batter instead of the butter and individual spices. I also fortified the beer with a single ounce of rum to add a little strength and extra flavor to the cocktail. I took a hot buttered rum and replaced the hot water with warm beer.