Despite the fact that the Super Bowl is reliably one of the most watched television events of the year, I suspect that on Sunday night, many viewers won’t be tuning in so much for the action on the field as for the action on the table. After a long January during which the weather suggested beef stew and mashed potatoes—yet Whole30 dictated salmon and salad—most of us are ready for pretty much any excuse to eat buffalo wings and nachos.
From creamy slow cooker dips (and no, you don’t need to fear the Crockpot) to vegan junk food like buffalo cauliflower or nachos topped with jackfruit and dairy-free cheese, to the simple, enduring deliciousness of Doritos, the snacks are easy. But what to drink with them?
You might be rolling your eyes and thinking, “Beer, duh. Why does everything need to be fancied up?” Two reasons: The Super Bowl lasts a long time (north of three hours, typically), and Sunday is a school night. You need something delicious that will go the distance without delivering a terrible hangover in the process.
You need a beer cocktail.
Don’t get hung up on the word cocktail here, this does not have to be a 12-ingredient concoction that requires a trip to three different liquor stores to make. In fact, you can assemble most of these from grocery store items, and beer mixed with juice and other ingredients is common all over the world—from British shandys (or radlers, if you please), to Mexican micheladas or cheladas (just beer lime and salt), to Korean somaek. Essentially, beer cocktails function the same as a white wine or rosé spritzer; by adding juice, ginger beer or seltzer you lower the alcohol content of your drink, without sacrificing flavor.
Here are a few that might pair nicely with with your Super Bowl party plans.
Neither Brits nor Mexicans are known for their love of fútbol Americano, but both cultures make a mean beer cocktail. Shandys are about as simple as it gets: take a beer on the lighter side of things along with either lemonade or ginger beer and pour them over ice (this is not necessary, but it further dilutes and slows your consumption) in a 1:1 ratio. Done. If you just can’t help yourself and need a fancy version, well here you go.
The lime juice in a chelada ups the acidity of beer and pairs nicely with heavy, cheesy snack food. You could also add a splash of lime or plain seltzer to this drink (which really goes for any beer cocktail), if you wanted it a little less potent. Its close neighbor the michelada adds hot sauce and Worcestershire to the mix, though there are a thousand variations out there, some made with tomato juice or even Clamato. Think of it as the light version of a Bloody Mary.
There’s not a ton of variation at most Korean drinking establishments, which tend to offer light beer, soju and makgeoli, an unfiltered rice wine, as well as a smattering of foreign liquor options. Somaek, a shot of soju—a rice liquor with a flavor somewhere between sake and vodka—added to a glass of beer and then stirred or tapped to integrate the two, is a popular combination. You can find soju at some liquor stores, but beware, its mild flavor belies the alcoholic punch it adds to a beer. A perfect pairing if you’re a bo ssam nut who makes the shreddy, spicy pork dish for every Super Bowl. If it’s a little too much for a Sunday night, put this in your back pocket to pair with the more staid olympic sports, like biathlon and curling later on this month.
Maybe you’re not going nachos and cheladas, or bo ssam and somaek (or just potluck, junk food madness). Maybe you’re a fan who is working a serious team theme. Tom Brady super fans should probably just sip on bone broth during the game. Everyone else needs something delicious to pair with their lobster rolls, turkey grinders and Cape Cod potato chips dredged in onion dip. New England-style India pale ales (IPAs) are a thing now (paywall), and while their balance of bitterness and tropical fruit have made people go kind of nuts for them, they also tend to be insanely high in alcohol for a beer. Try cutting your IPA with apple cider. You could meld a snakebite—half hard cider, half dark beer—with a shandy and combine non-alcoholic cider, sparkling or still, with an IPA, or get slightly fancier and make a pitcher of these honey-cider-beer cocktails.
Yuengling, the local lager in Philly, is a perfect beer cocktail base, with its light body and clean finish. A Yuengling michelada and a cheesesteak seem like a near ideal Super Bowl pairing. Or to delve deeper into Pennsylvania food lore, you could flip the definition of beer cocktail around with a boozy root beer float. Legendary root beer brand Hires started in Philadelphia and the city is major root beer territory).