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Savor an Arizona Summer Shandy

Celebrate the season with a locally inspired cocktail perfect for poolside sipping.

By Christina Barrueta | Photography by David B. Moore

Summers in the Valley bring patio misters, poolside tipples and a day to celebrate dads. For many, an ice-cold beer is a mainstay thirst-quencher, but the next time Pop reaches for a cold one, why not introduce him to a shandy? A centuries-long warm-weather tradition in Europe (citations of the shandy or Shandygaff date back to the 19th century), this refreshing beer cocktail is traditionally mixed with juice, lemonade or citrus soda.

In recent years, the drink has gained popularity in the U.S., and as the shandy has evolved, so has its complexity. Renowned James Beard Award-winning bartender and author Dale DeGroff, recognized as the father of the craft cocktail renaissance, introduced a shandy made with ale, ginger beer, orange curaçao and lemon juice almost two decades ago in his compendium, “The Craft of the Cocktail” (Proof Pub Ltd.). Today, many bartenders are bolstering the classic shandy with liqueurs, cordials and spirits.

Christopher Cuestas, spirits specialist at The Americano in Scottsdale, is a fan of this summertime quaffer. “I’m a dad myself, so when I’m at home with my children by the pool, I want something I can sip and savor while still keeping my wits about me. Because shandies are traditionally lower in alcohol content, they’re light and refreshing and ideal as a relief from our Arizona heat.”

Cuestas’ version celebrates local, incorporating Helton Brewing Co. pilsner, Grand Canyon Brewing & Distillery prickly pear vodka and Mezcal Carreño Espadín, which has special family ties to Phoenix. Ivan Carreño, born in Oaxaca and raised here, along with best friend and Arizona native Abel Arriaga, runs the U.S. operations of his family’s Mexican legacy, with Mezcal Carreño sold exclusively in our state.

“I frequently make shandies with a wheat beer or Belgian-style ale, but for something lighter, I went with the Helton pilsner,” says Cuestas. “It’s really crisp and delicious.”

To complement the award-winning beer and spirits, “I really wanted to make this a representation of what Arizona is,” Cuestas explains, “so I immediately thought of prickly pear fruit and mesquite honey.”

Although the mezcal can be omitted from the recipe, Cuestas notes that it adds depth and an intriguing hint of smoke. “Mezcals can be so varied, from green and vegetal, to fruity and papayalike,” he shares. “Carreño Espadín is one of my favorites. It’s not aggressively smoky and has sweet characteristics.” To garnish, Cuestas rims the pint glass with Tajín seasoning, a piquant chile-and-citrus fruit blend that can be found at local grocery stores and Mexican markets. “It pairs really well with the prickly pear in this cocktail,” he points out.

“All of the flavors come together,” Cuestas adds, “It’s a little sweet, a bit smoky from the mezcal, and refreshing and crisp. For me, it’s just perfect.”

“I’m a dad myself, so when I’m at home with my children by the pool, I want something I can sip and savor while still keeping my wits about me.”

—Christopher Cuestas, spirits specialist

Summer Shandy

¾ ounce Grand Canyon prickly pear vodka

¼ ounce Mezcal Carreño Espadín mezcal

1  teaspoon prickly pear jam

½ ounce Arizona mesquite honey simple syrup

¾ ounce fresh lime juice

¼ ounce fresh lemon juice

1 16-ounce can Helton Brewing Co. pilsner

Tajín seasoning to garnish


½ cup water

½ cup mesquite honey

Combine honey and water in a saucepan. Warm over low heat until honey is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Moisten the rim of a pint glass with water or lime or lemon juice. Pour Tajín seasoning into a shallow plate. Press the rim of the glass into the seasoning.

Pour vodka, mezcal, honey syrup, jam and juices into a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake vigorously for 30 seconds, and strain into glass. Fill glass the rest of the way with chilled Helton pilsner.

Serves 1


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