At New Image Brewing Co., Sean Fisher is making cocktails for beer drinkers. Even before the four-week-old brewpub opened, Fisher began to think about how a beer could be deconstructed into components that could be used to flavor cocktails. As he toyed around with syrups made from boiled-down ales or a variety of beer-flavoring hops, he realized that he could create cocktails that would appeal to beer lovers. One of the recipes on his drink menu is the Citra Fizz ($11) — based on a gin fizz — that contains gin, lemon juice, lavender syrup, hopped bitters and, of course, hops.
“I like bringing new people into the cocktail realm where they try new stuff,” Fisher says. To get his beer cocktail program started, he looked to the classics, using them as templates. “I bring a beer flavor or component to that classic cocktail and make something that people haven’t experienced yet.”
Here’s how he transformed a gin fizz into the Citra Fizz:
2 ounces Clearheart gin
.75 ounce lavender simple syrup
.75 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 bar spoon of Citra hops
3 dashes Bittermen’s hopped grapefruit bitters
Fisher begins by dropping a few pellets of Citra hops into a shaker tin and muddling them with a few drops of bitters. Citra hops are used by brewers to add citrus and tropical fruit flavors to a beer. He chose a gin that was also citrus-forward to complement the hops. “We’re using Clearheart gin because it’s a great pairing for citrus, and it really highlights the hops that we’re using," he explains. "It brings some of the same flavors to the table.”
Clearheart is made in Iowa by Cedar Ridge Distillery, where it’s distilled with only five botanicals: juniper berries, coriander, orris root, cucumber and fresh orange zest.
Fisher blends the brightly flavored gin with fresh lemon juice and a lavender syrup that he makes in New Image’s kitchen. After heating water to just below the boiling point, he adds lavender flowers and lets them steep for about thirty minutes. After straining out the flowers, he adds white sugar and stirs until the sugar is dissolved.
New Image is a brewpub, which means there’s a full bar and also a full kitchen. Fisher recommends trying the Spanish shrimp ($12) with the Citra Fizz. It features six shrimp in Spanish paprika, olive oil and garlic served with bread. “The citrus in this cocktail does a really good job of cutting through that garlic,” he explains.
Fisher plans to showcase a different hop with each new cocktail menu. Citra hops are rather hard to come by these days, he says, since they’ve become so popular with both commercial and home brewers. Therefore, he may look to other hop varieties such as Galaxy as possible future cocktail ingredients. He also plans to make his own bitters.
“I picked Citra as our first hop to play with, just because it’s very popular,” Fisher says. “It’s a comfortable hop for people who generally like cocktails. It’s not a far-out hop or anything like that.”