Beer Cocktails: Maggiore Maurizio

One of my culinary regrets is that I've still never eaten at Rowley's. It's just at the wrong end of Derbyshire for us, we think of lunching there but leave it too late. So I've never made it either to one of their Thornbridge evenings; each course cooked with and served with Thornbridge beers. I know, I'm so amateurish at times...

One thing I have tried, however, is a recipe concocted by their general manager, Alistair Myers. As part of their 2009 Thornbridge evening, he mixed up a Jaipur mojito which I enthusiastically set about ham-fistedly recreating. When I saw Thornbridge's Simon Webster tweeting from this year's event, I was eager to find out what cocktail was on offer. Reader, there was none. And so a challenge was born.

First thoughts were for something dark: rum, spices, the natural sweet honey of Bracia. Or maybe really souring up a Saint Petersberg with lemon and cherry. But the weather on the last few days has made me dreamy for crushed ice and citrics. So, an aromatic cocktail where I could replace soda water for something. Easy. Had to be gin, had to be punchy. Had to be with Thornbridge Italia.

I'm been unsure about the beer before. But because I found it so aromatic and herbal, that's why I turned to it first when thinking cocktails. It begins to mirror gin. And there are few finer gin cocktails than a Major Bailey.

To be honest, it's a cocktail to make when you can't be arsed to make cocktails. Ice and mint leaves into a shaker. Bruise up the mint. Add a smidgen of lime juice, same with lemon juice, pinch of sugar and a shitload of gin. Shake and strain into a tall glass full of crushed ice. Top with soda water if you're feeling weak or top with more liquor if you're feeling in a WTF mood.

So, it's as simple as falling off a pub bench to promote the Major to its logical conclusion: make the cocktail, pour into a taller glass, top off with beer. Thornbridge Italia does the job handsomely, in-built aromatics and citrics play with the cocktail's herbal bitterness.

Beer is wonderful. For anyone who's still struggling with just how broad the range of flavours and aromas can be, don't think beer = water + malt + hops + y That's like saying food = grain + spice. For anyone who's struggling with the idea of using beer in drinks or in food, think: beer doesn't have to be the final destination. Even if the brewer didn't foresee a stop beyond what arrived in the bottle.

For some people, mixing beers is anathema. Putting beer in food is poncey. Putting beer with spirits gets the pub burned down. The sun's out: kick loose, fart about, get it wrong, get it wrong again. When you get it right, you'll treasure the moment. It's only beer and herbs and spirits. It could all go wrong. And it can all go deliciously right.

This one's for thornbridgesi and is named in honour of the Birrifico Italiano brewer, Maurizio Folli, who came over to brew Italia with the Thornbridge mob. Recipe on request. I'm available as a cocktail shaker for quintuplet's christenings, 99th birthdays and big fat gipsy's bar-mitzvahs.