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Last year a friend of mine happened upon a flea market in the middle of Arizona with a vendor selling a huge collection of vintage drink stirrers. It was a gold mine of the kitschy, the 'classy', and the sometimes bizarre concepts that American restaurateurs and bar owners have embraced over the years. She chose a few favorites for herself and thoughtfully sent a handful my way.
My personal favorite is the "Steak Island" swizzle. It may not be the flashiest in a collection that also includes a horse-riding cowboy and an original Playboy Club stirrer, but I can't resist the mental image I get when I look at it: a place and time long gone and forgotten, where giant platters of steaks, heaping helpings of wedge salad, and pitchers of easy-drinking booze are shimmied from table to table by nubile waitresses.
Red-blooded. American. Beefy. Which brings us to our cocktail today—a drink inspired by good ol' Steak Island that's just about perfect for your upcoming Super Bowl party. It's a beer cocktail somewhat similar to a michelada, but with a secret savory ingredient: steak sauce. It's an earthy drink that pairs up well with meaty nachos or chili; but it's cooling, tart, and refreshing, too, because, after all, we're on an island.
Why steak sauce? It adds a touch of sweetness and some underlying umami to the cocktail. Mixed with fresh citrus juice, it adds both a base note and a tangy brightness to your fizzy beer mixer. Feel free to use whatever steak sauce you have hanging around your pantry; I'm going with good ol' A1. Muddled bell peppers offer a subtle vegetal flavor and complexity that'll keep you sipping. You'll top the base off with an easy-drinking lager such as Pacifico; there's enough going on here that you don't need something powerful or hoppy.
You'll mix the drink base by the pitcher in advance, which makes the party all the easier on the host. Resting the base for a few hours (or overnight) allows the ingredients to sit and mingle, then you'll top it off with cold beer when your guests arrive. Make sure you've stashed enough beer in the fridge the night before—I like this drink served over ice, but you don't want your ice cubes to meet warm beer and immediately water down your cocktail. Plus, warm beer will fizz and make a mess all over the place when you pour it.
The drink can be served one of two ways: by the pitcher or divided between glasses, which each get topped off with beer. It's entirely your choice, but for a group I prefer just mixing up a big pitcher and letting your guests pour their own. After all, if there's any place that you should be able to serve yourself as many refills as you want, it must be Steak Island.
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