How to Make a Radler, the Perfect Beer Cocktail for Summer
Take a trip to any German biergarten during the summertime, and you’ll find locals and tourists alike sipping Radlers, the ultra-refreshing, lightly alcoholic drink perfect for sizzling hot days. A traditional German Radler combines equal parts light-colored, hoppy beer such as pilsner and citrus soda (often called “lemonade” in Europe, but it’s actually lemon-lime flavored). The flavor is a crisp combination of sweet and tart, with a touch of bitterness for balance. If you’re looking for a lower calorie, low-alcohol boozy fix, the Radler is a smart choice. Compared to high-gravity craft beers, which can be up to 10% ABV and nearly 400 calories, Radlers are typically between 2% and 4% ABV and rarely run over 130 calories if they’re homemade. While the Radler is a summer staple in Germany, it’s less common in the United States. It’s a blazing hot summer out there, and it’s not over yet—let’s get to know this rejuvenating beverage better, so you can add it to your beverage arsenal.
What is a Radler?
The Radler is Germany’s version of a shandy, a drink composed of half beer, half fruit soda or ginger ale. Tipplers of all kinds have long embraced the shandy as a boozy midday refresher that won’t derail productivity afterwards. One of the earliest varieties, a beer and ginger ale concoction called the shandygaff, gained popularity in 19th century England. You’ll find shandies across Europe—the French call it Panaché, while the Dutch label it Sneeuwwijte. Other shandy variations include the Snakebite, a mix of hard cider and dark beer indigenous to England, and the Colaweizen, a mix of wheat beer and cola that’s common in Germany.
The Radler owes its creation to a 1920s German innkeeper named Franz Kugler. As the story goes, a large group of cyclists riding through the Bavarian countryside arrived at his tavern, exhausted and parched for beer. Realizing he wouldn't have enough to quench the crowd’s thirst, Franz needed a quick solution. To stretch his beer supply, he added sparkling lemonade to his kegs. Franz coined his drink “Radler,” the German word for “cyclist.” This accidental creation would soon gain fame as a popular "sports drink" in the cycling community. While we don't recommend beer as a replacement for water, a cold glass of brew after a tough workout is undoubtedly refreshing.
How to Make It
Today, breweries in Germany (such as Stiegl-Radler) and a few in the United States (such as Boulevard Brewing Company) produce their own Radlers. Often, they’re infused with flavors such as ginger or grapefruit, and fall between 2% to 4% ABV. However, with just a few simple ingredients, you can easily make a Radler at home (especially if you have good beer in the fridge). Our easy recipe interprets the classic drink to minimize calories and added sugar. We give you the proper proportions, but feel free to play with the ingredients—swap in your favorite sparkling water flavor or try fresh grapefruit or orange juice.
Now that you have the know-how, mix up a Radler pitcher for your next gathering, whether it’s a weekend brunch, backyard cookout, or a lazy day at the pool. And while you’re at it, round out the festivities with one of these perfect food pairings:
- Pulled Pork: A crisp, citrusy Radler cuts through the fat of tender pork shoulder, as well as other hearty meats.
- Grilled Fruit: Pair a Radler with grill-charred fruit such as peaches or watermelon to elevate their flavor. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt into the mix for creamy, dreamy goodness.
- All the Spicy Foods: Lower alcohol drinks, such as the Radler, can quell the heat of fiery fare (higher ABV drinks can actually amplify the flames!). Try it with hot curries, spicy wings, or Sichuan cuisine.
- Boozy Brunch: Instead of a Mimosa, try making a Radler with fresh grapefruit or blood orange juice. The sweet, citrus balances rich brunch dishes such as Eggs Benedict, bacon, or cheesy strata.
Looking for more beer twists this summer? Check out our Easy Beer Cocktail recipe collection to spark your beerspiration. Prost!