Happy Hour: Turn Your Favourite Beer Into Your Favourite Cocktail

Happy Hour: Turn Your Favourite Beer Into Your Favourite Cocktail

Do you want a beer, or do you want a cocktail? The answer is yes. You want both. Right now. Simultaneously. In a single glass. Today we’re going to show you how to turn your old favourite beer into your new favourite syrup, and how to use it in a delicious mixed drink. Buckle up.

It’s time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo’s weekend booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science and alcohol. Would this be good on pancakes?

I was first turned onto this concept when I was at the Beefeater distillery in London earlier this year. There, Tim Stones (one of Beefeater’s brand ambassadors) made me a drink called the London Mule, originally created by Angus Zou at Alchemy, Taipei. It was fantastic, and it called for an ingredient I’d never seen before: Porter Syrup.

How To Make Porter Syrup

Thankfully, this is really easy to do. You can make it well in advance of whatever event you’re going to host, and the syrup should keep for a good six weeks or so. Best of all, you only need two ingredients: beer and sugar. Let’s start with the porter, since that’s how I learned it.


  • 1. Pour the porter into a large saucepan. You want something that’s non-stick, or at least that won’t add flavour to the concoction (i.e. not cast iron).
  • 2. Turn the heat up to medium-high, stirring every couple of minutes, until the porter begins to boil. Once it does, reduce the heat so it’s just high enough to keep it simmering.
  • 3. Let the beer simmer for about 30-40 minutes, give or take, stirring every couple of minutes (you don’t want it to burn). We’re going for a two-thirds reduction, ideally.
  • 4. Once the porter has been reduced to roughly one-third its original volume, remove it from heat, and pour it into a heat-resistant bowl or jar. Ideally, you’d use a kitchen scale here to weigh the bowl before hand, reset it to zero, and then pour the mixture in, so you know exactly how much it weighs.
  • 5. Add an equal amount of sugar to the mixture and stir until it is completely dissolved. We think raw sugar gives you the best, richest flavour here. If you were able to use a scale in the previous step, then the most accurate way to do this is to add an equal amount of sugar by weight. So, if you had 180mL of hot, reduced porter in the bowl, then add sugar to it until it reaches 360mL.

Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of some delicious porter syrup. It’s got a rich, malty flavour and it will go well with gin cocktails as well ask whiskey cocktails (probably rum cocktails too). Funnel it into a little bottle, cap it and it should last you a while.

What Not to Do

Having screwed this up a couple of times myself, allow me a few words of caution:

  • Don’t rush it. You will be tempted to keep the heat on high so that the beer will boil harder and it will reduce faster. Don’t. As with most reductions in cooking, if you burn it even slightly, the whole thing will be ruined and your drink will taste like burning, and not in a good way. Patience, young padawan.
  • Don’t Add the Sugar Early. There will also be a temptation to throw in the sugar right after you put the beer into the pan so you can reduce it all together. Again, don’t. Not only will that make it a lot easier to burn, but the sugar will caramelise, which will make the syrup taste more like molasses than the original beer. It’s also really easy to over-reduce it and turn the whole thing into a syrup so thick it won’t dissolve into your drink without five minutes of stirring. No good.

The London Mule

Now that you’ve got the syrup, the London Mule is dead simple to make.


  • 45mL Beefeater

  • 10mL Pedro Ximinez (sweet sherry)

  • 10mL London Porter Syrup

  • 45mL London Porter (I used Fuller’s)

  • Orange twist for garnish
  • Ice cubes


This drink uses a technique known as “rolling“.

  • 1. Fill a glass with ice, and add all of the liquid ingredients.
  • 2. Gently pour (or “roll”) the ingredients from the glass into a shaker tin (or mixing glass).
  • 3. Strain the contents back into the original glass, then garnish with an orange twist. (Rolling doesn’t always involve straining the drink, but for this one, do.)

The drink is really lively and refreshing, but it’s got a lot of different layers to it. Really tasty, definitely not boring, and very easy to make. It’s easily one of the best cocktails I’ve ever made at home. If it’s too sweet, as with most things in life, just add more gin (or maybe a dash of bitters).

Other Beer Syrups

Want to make an Old Fashioned but don’t have any simple syrup? You can add a little extra flavour by using the same technique for the porter syrup, but instead using basically any other beer. You can even use some cheap, American lager, like Bud.

It’s hard to believe, but even the Bud version was delicious. It was sweet, and tasted reminiscent of cereal. It was kind of comforting, actually. I recently made Old Fashioneds with 60mL of bourbon, 15mL of light beer syrup, a dash of Angostura bitters, and a twisted an orange over the top. It created a really nicely balanced drink, and we drank a lot of them.

That’s not all; IPAs work just as well. If you reduce, say, Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA to one-third its original volume, then add equal sugar by weight, you’ll end up with an excellent syrup. It’s far more complex than the lager, and you can still taste the hops, which gives it kind of a citrousy, grapefruity edge. Try it in an Old Fashioned with either bourbon or gin (remember, the Old Fashioned is a formula, not a recipe).

You can also make the dark syrup with Guinness Stout and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, both of which taste fantastic.

So, will this work with any beer? My guess is no, but since we’re five for five so far, I suspect that this would work with most beers. As long as your favourite beer isn’t 20 bucks a bottle, why not give it a shot? You might just end up creating an ingredient that ties your favourite new cocktail together.

Thanks to Tim Stones and Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge for the assistance.