Friday, 25 May 2012 | 63 comments

Herb-infused clara con limón

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

For assembly:
Lightly flavored beers, such as a pilsner or lager—really even very low-end beers work for clara, like Amstel or PBR
Ice
Herbs for garnish

Directions

    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.

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§ 63 responses to Herb-infused clara con limón

  • Sounds perfect for summer — and right up my alley.

  • This is so perfect for summer! I’m stashing this one up my sleeve…I think it is time I updated my every-day lemonade recipe.

  • So pretty. The drink, your description of your time in Spain and your time spent at home too. Lots of friends have told me that I would love Spain and I suspect it’s for the reason you mentioned–the older and slower aspects of life there. Excited to make this refreshing drink with my love this weekend, Thanks Sarah :)

  • Beautiful, both in the photos and recipe. It smacks me of summer and sweet nothing-ness, of deck lounging and sunlight and the drift of a day spent in easy hours. I hope this passes my way soon.

  • Spaniards have a way with food and drinks, so perfectly described in your post. I was thinking lately about remembering the good and not the annoying. So true! I´ve never heard of clara, but it sounds like a crowd pleaser. Beautiful pictures.

  • I have a thing for Spain- the food, the culture, etc. I look forward to traveling there someday, and for now I will enjoy this fantastic drink. Love the concept of thyme syrup.

    • We’re stoked to make a lot of simple syrups after this one. I have a “pineapple sage” plant that has the coolest tropical-smelling essential oils. Pineapple sage mojito? Possibilities…

  • Mm, this sounds delicious. I also studied abroad in Valencia, through a program at my university, with the Instituto Cervantes. My host family taught me how to make a tortilla, which I really don’t do often enough. I often still find myself dreaming of someday living in Spain.

  • Beautiful! I have been wondering what to do with all the thyme I have growing. This makes me look forward to a relaxed summer afternoon.

  • What wonderful memories of Spain. Your photos are brilliant as usual.
    Unfortunately we’re heading into winter here, but my lemon tree has an abundance of fruit at the moment so if I bank up the pot bellied stove and wrap a throw over the loungers to snuggle up in maybe just maybe we can sit outside and have a golden moment of our own!
    Thanks for sharing. :D

  • What a beautiful summer recipe… I can’t wait to try this out it looks so refreshing!

  • So funny how things stay in our memories. My memories of Spain, which I visited as a child are of crowded beaches, bumper cars late at night (so fun!), drinking Orange Fanta at dinner (as the milk was horrible there), the tiny cars and donkeys carrying the garbage on garbage day.

    This version of my beloved shandy looks and sounds lovely and perfect for warm days in the backyard. Thanks.

  • Looks delicious—Makes sense to me that you liked a place where things were older, and slower. Happy Holiday to you and Ben.

  • I need this in my life. I have never experienced a clara! Sounds delightful and refreshing. Me being kind of a light weight this would be a perfect fit.

  • Perfect post. This makes me so happy.
    When I lived in Vienna I discovered the “radler,” which is just about the same–beer and lemonade (no soda, please!). This, and the discovery of wheat beer with lemon slices saved me that summer. Of course it all tastes better sitting under leafy trees and twinkle lights in a biergarten.
    But bare feet and a running creek sounds just as good.
    Happy weekending! xox

  • I love the thought of drinking this sparkly beverage with my toes dangling in the water on a hot summer day :)

  • This looks like a perfect summer drink. My sister has been making a version of this with beer + vodka, and it’s rather dangerous. I think I could handle this one.

    Also, I’ve been discovering golden moment in my backyard, as well. It’s been good for the soul, finding loveliness on simple paths.

  • On my way to find a creek to drink clara con limon with my feet in the water. Lovely post.

  • Lemon and fresh herbs–great combination! I may have to make a pitcher or two of this for the next lazy weekend. :)

  • Every culture must have its own version of a clara, My German sister-in-law swears by radlers, and we often (maybe too often) drank what we called skippies in college (add vodka to the mix…dangerous!) It’s always fun to recreate memories in drink form!

  • Val

    Spain is amazing. The pace, the people, everything. Unfortunately, the drink I most remember from there was calimocho (red wine and Coke) but I did have a few of the beer cocktails and there was nothing more refreshing on a hot day.

  • This is such a great recipe. Our summer drink at home is sweet tea vodka infused iced tea (with lavender). Thanks for sharing your your love for food in such an amazing blog.

  • We just spent a day in the park with a couple who spent a few months in Spain and as it turns out they brought their “Spanish-drink” for us to try – Red Wine + Orange Fanta. I was completely skeptical, but it actually tasted a whole lot like Sangria. They claimed it was what all of their Spanish friends would drink – the lazy man’s Sangria. It was indeed good, but your clara con limon looks much much better. Perhaps I’ll make it for our next picnic in the hopes of refreshing their memories about other drinks they enjoyed while in Spain. Spain is next on our list, perhaps this fall.

  • Sophie

    In Australia we have a very similar ‘blonde shandy’ (insert joke here), but the lemonade used is much tarter than American lemonade, and not quite as artificial tasting as lemon-lime sodas. I’m eager to try this with thyme, though — sounds wonderful!

  • Steph

    Let’s go back to Spain.

  • What a gorgeous post! Love this. :)

  • Dee

    Heidi, hands down, you are without peer: your photography, creative recipes ; the cookbooks all represent what I like and admire about you. Impecable real foodd, your travel photo’s always make me drool, sometimes, more than the food.
    So, I need to say, what’s up with what appears to be an aluminum juice squeezer? I bought one back in the day from the dollar store, until I read about the toxicity, especially with citrus that aluminum creates in our organs.

    Otherwise, thank you for your amazing and most appreciated website. Have a great summer.
    Dee

    • Hi Dee—I’m not Heidi, so don’t blame her for my aluminum juicer :) The juicer is indeed aluminum. Like you, I’m concerned about aluminum toxicity and the role aluminum cookware plays.

      From what I know, both as a consumer and as a public health professional, aluminum leaches most when used to store foods (especially acidic or basic ones) or used to heat or cook with them. While citric acid + aluminum can be bad when you use aluminum to store or cook, the risk is pretty low when the citrus is only in contact for a brief time without being heated, as in juicing. I check the juicer for pitting, as the acid can compromise aluminum’s integrity and cause it to leach more, but so far, so good. (This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t prefer a gorgeous ceramic juicer. Do you know any? But for now I’m making do.)

      Thanks!
      S

  • Fascinating, I’ve never heard of this one. Great photos. :)

  • Indira Boodram

    Thank you Heildi, I’m currently in South Korea and it gets pretty hot here too! I’d love to try this exciting beverage on a hot Korean day over looking the beautiful village and rice fields of Waegwan…

  • Nancy kelly

    This sounds fantastic for a summer’s eve gathering. Must try it out. You always have such wonderful ideas. Thank you for being on line for us.

  • Anne

    I think this herb infused lemonade mixed with Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, which is herb infused Gin, will be a perfect summer pick me up! Can’t wait to try it!
    Great photos. By the way I loved drinking Horchata at the beaches in Spain

  • Yum. Thank you.

  • liz

    Fresh herbs plus lemon especially since they are growing right now. So glad you enjoyed your time in Spain because I am fortunate enough to live there 5 months of the year……….wonderful vegetables and fish.

  • So lovely, I was a little late finding this post, but I am so glad I did. This drink is so refreshing on a hot day like today. The thyme is perfectly lovely, but I can’t help but wonder what other tasty combinations I might find in my little herb garden. Thanks again…

  • Donna

    Your photography can make mud look good. Love the cast iron pot you have, will have to look for one…Nice size.

  • Donna Clary

    Looks good

  • Heidi-I want to be you when I grow up. This is just lovely.

  • This is great. I don’t drink anymore and am always looking for something interestIng. I’ll try this with the non alcoholic Becks I’ve been drinking lately. Very cool recipe.

    • Hi Oana,
      That may work. The little bit of bitterness, light malt, and carbonation is really what you’re going for here. I have troubles making alcoholic drinks non-alcoholic…they’re something else entirely, usually, when you remove the beer/wine/liquor. I’d love to hear how it goes. Cheers—S

  • In Austria we have a lemonade with 32 herbs called Almdudler. Mixing it with a light wheat bear it becomes an Almradler which is similar to plain lemonade and beer which is called a radler. Very nice!!! :-)

  • I just found your beautiful blog and this refreshing post on the 101 Cookbooks page on Facebook. So happy she shared the discovery. I can’t wait to try this recipe with fresh herbs, and to explore your absolutely beautiful blog. Thank you! Michaela

  • James

    Wow! This looks really awesome! I am just about to bottle an American wheat beer that we recently brewed. I will definitely try this out, I expect great things!

  • Christine

    Love this. I also spent a summer in Spain- Granada instead of Valencia, and tinto was all the rage. I’m excited to try this with the wheat beer we brew… and for whatever reason, I’m also thinking I may sub out the thyme for rosemary. Ooh, or basil?! Great post, beautiful pictures.

  • Laura

    as a Spanish living abroad….what can i say. I miss so much the sun from Alicante (if you studied in Valencia, you should know it! ), the fresh oranges, the gazpacho, and of course…. las claras con limon. For me the best ones on summer are the beer mixed with frozen lemonade (granizado). Best summer drink, better if you are in a terrace with some olive oils, chips, sauteed garlic mushrooms… oh gosh…. viva espana!!!

  • I’m so happy to find this recipe (through 101 Cookbooks) and your site. My fledgling site is http://www.lemonythyme.com and I would love to share this recipe. I’m partial to lemon & thyme. Can’t wait to explore your site.

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