What seems like eons ago, I studied in Valencia, Spain. Spain agreed with me. It wasn’t hard to settle into a life of afternoons on the Mediterranean, late suppers and later nights out, wide avenidas, weekends in the countryside. Oranges grew in the streets. Things were older, slower. The pieces of places we keep with us are funny. There were as many things about living in Spain that annoyed me as things I enjoyed—but what remains are the golden moments. And from Spain, many of those golden moments were spent sitting on terrazas sipping one of the light wine- or beer-based cocktails that Spaniards do so well. Tinto de verano, agua de Valencia, clara con limón. I’ve been seeking out lower-alcohol mixed drinks—refreshing, bubbly things that don’t rely on any hard liquor. Something you can sip on and off all through a hot day. Clara con limón, or just clara, as it’s often called, is a blend of a beer with something lemon-y–essentially the same as what Americans call a shandy. It can be hit or miss: in some bars and restaurants in Spain, you’ll get a gorgeous drink with beer and sparkling lemonade; in others, it’s beer and a lemon-lime soda, which isn’t really the same. Taking quality control into my own hands, this version of clara is a pilsner or lager mixed with fresh-squeezed lemons and a thyme-infused simple syrup. I whipped up this batch just as Ben arrived back home this evening, the stuffiest day of 2012 thus far. We walked down to the creek, claras in hand. The late afternoon sun streamed through the trees. We waded in the water and lounged on rocks. Turns out those golden moments happen right in your backyard, too. Happy long weekend, everyone.
Herb-infused clara con limón
You will need
For the simple syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup loosely packed herbs (I used thyme which works beautifully, but this if obviously adaptable to your tastes)
For the lemonade:
3 lemons, juiced
4 cups water
Lightly flavored beers, such as a pilsner or lager—really even very low-end beers work for clara, like Amstel or PBR
Herbs for garnish
- In a saucepan or pot with a lid, bring simple syrup ingredients (sugar, water, herbs) to a boil, stirring. Immediately remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 10-30 minutes, depending on how strongly herb-flavored you want your drink. Strain out the herbs if you like (I left mine in the entire time).
In a pitcher, dispenser, or something from which you can easily pour, mix the lemon juice, 4 cups of water, and 3/4 to 1 cup simple syrup. Taste for sweetness. Keeping in mind that the drink will be diluted with beer when you mix it, I tend to go a bit sweeter than I normally would with lemonade.
Add ice to the lemonade if you’re serving to many people right away; or add ice glass-by-glass for more all-day-long consumption.
Fill a tall glass (with or without ice) halfway with the lemonade. Top up the rest of the glass with beer. Garnish with an herb sprig.
If you have leftover simple syrup, it will keep, in a sealed container in the fridge, for a week.