How Quick Thinking Led To The Creation Of The Shandy

When summer temperatures soar, it's only natural to reach for refreshing beverages to cool off. In bars around the world, patrons order beer cocktails like radlers and shandies to quench their thirst. Even Dickens, in 1860, observed that when the weather gets warm, "no honest man drinks anything but shandy-gaff" (per Mark Dredge). But while the words "shandy" and "radler" are used interchangeably (both drinks are made from beer and juice), the type of juice used and the origins of the drinks determine the difference.

Britain's shandy and the German radler are both effervescent libations that can easily be poured into chilled glasses and enjoyed (via LCBO). But for a beer concoction to qualify as a shandy, Vine Pair advises, the beer must be mixed specifically with lemonade; a radler can refer to beer cut with any kind of juice. To purists wondering why anyone would dilute a good beer in the first place, we see you. Read on.

Keeping customers happy since the 19th century

The Gloucester Citizen described the shandy as both a "delightful beverage" and "poor man's champagne" in 1902. One man reportedly drank 55 pints in one night (via Mark Dredge). In 1918, American Christopher Morley agreed, "Shandygaff is a very refreshing drink, being a mixture of bitter ale or beer and ginger-beer, commonly drunk by the lower classes in England, and by strolling tinkers, low church parsons, newspaper men, journalists, and prizefighters" (per Merriam Webster). In time, the name shandygaff was shortened to shandy, and the ordered rounds continued.

As Brits guzzled shandies, a thrifty Bavarian bar owner by the name of Franz Xaver Kugler began slinging radlers (radler means "cyclist" in German) for thirsty cyclists (per Eater). With his beer supply running low, Hop Culture reports Kugler resorted to adding lemonade to his dwindling supply to refill empty glasses and keep the pack satisfied. To sample the invention for yourself, American Craft Beer recommends pairing a lager with lemonade, grapefruit, or ginger juice in something close to a 50-50 ratio.