Michael Harden

The michelada.
The michelada. Photo: Chris Vedelago

Ahh, beer. Icy-cold pal and faithful pillar of strength on hot summer days - it's not hard to feel affection for it, especially when you've had a few. But as the summers get longer and hotter, the relationship can show signs of strain. It may not be at the familiarity-breeds-contempt stage, but you can start to wonder, as you contemplate yet another run of 40-plus days, if you might need some space for a while.

But as any good relationship counsellor will tell you, spicing things up a bit, shaking up the stale old routines, can do wonders for an apparently ailing bond. And what better way to spruce up the old beer than by turning it into a beer cocktail.

Mixing beer with other stuff has a long, proud history (the black velvet, a mix of stout and champagne, first appeared in London in 1861 after the death of Prince Albert, created by a grieving bartender who believed even champagne needed to wear the colours of mourning), so before you start envisioning hideous concoctions with garish garnishes and creamy textures, know that for the best beer cocktails (aka the drinkable ones), keep it simple.

One of the best is the Mexican cerveza preparada, the michelada. The traditional version of this involves a super-chilled, preferably Mexican, lager mixed with lime juice, hot sauce and perhaps a few slices of chilli that's then served in a chilled glass rimmed with salt. If you want a bit more of a kick, a shot of (good, preferably blanco) tequila will get the job done. Either way, it's brilliantly refreshing and will make the long, hot summer seem like a more hospitable place.

Other mixes include the shandy gaff, which combines equal amounts of beer such as Indian pale ale and the spiciest ginger beer you can find (Fever Tree is good), or the groundskeeper, with a shot of smoky, peaty whisky - say, Ardbeg - tipped into a pint glass and topped with pilsner.

The beer cocktail repertoire is not particularly wide for good reason - it seldom plays nicely with others. But get it right and you'll soon be contemplating your beer with freshly amorous eyes.