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March 30th, 2006
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Magical blends

Loved on its own, beer is also a great mixer

By Evan Rail
Staff Writer, The Prague Post
July 7, 2005


COURTESY PHOTO
Whiskey mixes well with beer. But magické oko is another story.

For most of us, serving a beer is straightforward: Open the tap or bottle and fill the glass. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

But beer has a long history of mixing with liquor, soft drinks and other ingredients. This country's best-known beer mixer is the magické oko, or magic eye: a serving of zelená, a mint liqueur noted for its lack of subtlety, dropped into a half-liter of beer, shot glass and all. The drink is said to be served in tough, working-class bars, though its actual popularity there seems overstated.

"I've only seen magické oko in movies," says Martin Ullmann of the pub inside the Dejvice train station.

Even cocktail bars known for extensive menus rarely serve magické oko.

"We don't sell that," says Jan Pavlík, barman at Tretter's Bar. "It must have been in the movie Bony a Klid. The actor Roman Skamene ordered it."

Similar and slightly less noxious is the classic boilermaker, a shot glass of whiskey sunk into a glass of beer. Given that both whiskey and beer are usually made from barley, such a combination can taste delicious, or at least better than magické oko. And of course it is an excellent way to forget what troubles you, as well as your current address and, quite possibly, your own middle name.

MIX IT UP
  • Beer bloody mary: beer with tomato juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire (optional: vodka, raw egg)
  • Bee sting: dark beer and orange juice
  • Black velvet: stout, such as Guinness, cut 50-50 with Champagne
  • Boilermaker (or depth charge): a shot glass of whiskey dropped into a glass of beer
  • Broadway (or diesel): beer and cola
  • Liverpool kiss: dark beer with cassis
  • Magické oko: a shot of zelená liqueur dropped into a glass of beer
  • Radler (or panaché): beer with lemonade or lemon soda, usually around 2:1
  • Red eye: a shot of tomato juice added to beer (also known as a red rooster)
  • Shandygaff (or shandy): beer with ginger beer, ginger ale or lemonade
  • Skip and go naked: beer with lemon juice, gin and often whatever else is on hand
  • Snakebite: beer cut with cider, 50-50
  • Terminator: Long Island iced tea, beer and Kahlua

Most mixers that use beer are similarly lowbrow creations. But at Tretter's, at least a few high-end highballs start with pivo.

"There's the racier version of the bloody mary," says Pavlík. "It's basically a standard bloody mary plus beer plus a raw egg. It's a hangover drink. And then there's something like Long Island iced tea with beer that's called a Terminator. I don't know why they call it that. It's basically just Long Island iced tea plus beer plus a little Kahlua."

Of course, not all beer mixers have to be strong enough to power the space shuttle. Often the goal is a new drink that is less alcoholic than the original, especially when sports are involved. Germany, Austria and Switzerland serve up radler, a mix of lager with crisp lemon soda — supposedly a favorite drink of the cyclist. In French-speaking countries, the same drink often goes by the name panaché.

And even before there were bicycles, Britain, Ireland and America served the shandygaff, or shandy, a mix of beer and ginger ale or lemonade. A common beverage since the 17th century, the shandygaff supposedly takes its name from a pub that served beer of questionable quality and disguised the off-taste with a dash of sweet lemonade. Today a similar drink mixes beer with cola, which the Japanese call broadway and the Germans call diesel.

It may sound anathema, but even many real beer fans enjoy a beer mixer every now and then.

"I personally think radler isn't bad at all," says Zdeněk Mikulášek, spokesman for Bernard brewery in Humpolec. "If you're out somewhere cycling, it's perfectly ideal. You don't have to worry that you'll get dizzy. And sometimes, when I'm on a cross-border visit to Austria, I'd prefer having a radler than one of their brews."

That's one vote for radler, if not boilermakers and deisel. But for Mikulášek, magické oko is clearly going too far.

"I'm looking for a polite word here," he says. "Putting peppermint liqueur in beer? You either ought to have a beer or a shot. It's just plain wrong."

— Dan Macek contributed to this report.

Evan Rail can be reached at erail@praguepost.com







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