This is a love story.
I am OBSESSED with grapefruit. It all started with one of my favorite scented candles, Paddywax’s salted grapefruit. And then there was soap, lip balm … even a grapefruit-scented household cleaner! And, of course, my near daily early-winter ritual of snacking on a grapefruit sliced in half and sprinkled generously with coarse, crunchy sea salt (preferably Jacobsen’s vanilla bean salt, because that pop of vanilla is perfection).
So, it was a great surprise that I did not initially like Ghostfish Brewing’s multiple-award-winning Grapefruit IPA. Even as a fan of bitter foods and beverages (arugula, Brussels sprouts, espresso, etc.), this one was just too bitter for me. It’s pungent, with more notes of grapefruit pith than peel or fruit.
But my palate (along with EVERYTHING. ELSE. in my life) has changed dramatically over the last few years (was once a sweet-white-wine-only kinda girl, now I drink reds on the reg), so I definitely appreciate and enjoy this beer more than I used to.
I wanted to find a way to love this beer even more. And I succeeded! (I’ve bought and consumed more of it than ever before, if that’s a testament to success.) My brain started spinning flavor pairings. Traditionally and most straightforwardly, a shandy is made by mixing beer with lemon-lime soda, so I started first with that flavor combination. Instead of regular lemonade, my mind turned to meyer lemons, which are naturally sweeter and more fragrant. Tarragon (an herb I usually HATE and avoid at all costs) pairs well with both lemon and grapefruit and adds a subtle herbaceousness.
The beauty of this combination is that you can taste all the elements, but the lemonade mellows the beer’s bracing bitterness. The grapefruit isn’t lost and the meyer lemon shines and this drink has a really smooth finish.
Unlike other shandies, this one isn’t topped off with a sparkling beverage. Instead, because the alcohol content of the beer is tempered by the lemonade, I decided to boost the booze with a float of gin. The floral, herby, citrusy flavors work really well with gin. But the gin is totally optional and you can definitely add a splash of sparkling water instead. (I recommend a lemon or lime flavor and a dry/unsweetened variety like La Croix because this blend is already pretty sweet between the honey and the meyer lemons, but do what suits your tastes best!)
It could be the tarragon (which I always associate with chicken salad, which I associate, for some reason, with ladylike luncheons). It could be the pretty pinks and pastel yellows. It could be that I used the word “herbaceousness.” I don’t know for sure, but this particular shandy makes me feel fancy. I hope it makes you feel fancy, too.
Grapefruit IPA Shandy with Tarragon Meyer Lemonade
For the lemonade:
4-6 meyer lemons
1 cup water
¼ cup honey
3-4 sprigs fresh tarragon, plus more for optional garnish
For the shandy:
4-6 ounces lemonade
6 ounces Grapefruit IPA
1 ounce gin or 1-2 ounces sparkling water (optional)
Put a 12-16 ounce glass (or glasses) in the fridge to chill.
Use a vegetable peeler to carefully remove 3-4 strips of peel, about an inch long, from one of the lemons. Juice the lemons and strain the liquid into a measuring cup. You should have ½ cup juice. (For me, this took 4 lemons. It helps to have a few extra, in case you get some that are less juicy or want a wedge to squeeze into your beer later.)
In a small saucepan, combine the water and honey over medium heat. Stir until the honey is dissolved. Add the lemon peel strips and the tarragon. Bring the mix to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture is reduced to ½ cup. This will take 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally and watch to make sure it doesn’t boil or reduce too much.
Once the liquid is reduced, set the pan aside and allow to steep until the mixture is completely cool.
Stir together the cooled syrup and juice. You can use this immediately, or store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Add a sprig of tarragon to the jar to continue infusing more flavor if you’re saving it for later. (Keep in mind the longer it sits, the stronger it gets. I left a sprig in some lemonade for 5 days and it was very strong, bordering on unpleasant…but I also generally dislike tarragon, so take that with a grain of salt.)
To make the shandy, add 4 ounces of lemonade to a chilled glass. Pour in 6 ounces of beer. Give it a taste. If you need more lemon-y flavor, add a bit more lemonade. If you want the beer to be stronger, add more beer. Top with optional gin or sparkling water and serve with a lemon wedge. Garnish with a sprig of tarragon if you’re feeling extra fancy. Cheers!
Get the glow and sip on these other shandies, too: