lemon soda

What I thought was my first encounter with shandy came when I was visiting London. The fact that they sold the canned drink alongside children’s beverages, even though its alcohol content is about 2 percent — the maximum allowed for beer in some American states — made the environs seem quite foreign indeed.

Upon further reflection, I realized that I’d already encountered shandy, in Monty Python’s Drunken Philosophers Song:

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will

On a half pint of shandy was particularly ill

1john-stuart-mill-avatar-1581 Pictures don’t lie: John Stuart Mill was a person


This constitutes an all-too-common slander of Mill, a flexible and synthetic thinker who tended to straddle the usual delineations, and who is consequently an object of contempt from nearly all quarters*. It is also, I am afraid, an anachronism. The word “shandy” did not refer to any drink in Mill’s day. He might well have a enjoyed a quaff of “shandygaff”, which preceded shandy. But this was a different drink, composed of beer and ginger ale.

What is shandy? It’s simply a mixture of (light) beer and what the English call “lemonade” — for us, lemon soda. As I understand it, the proportion varies according to taste, with 50/50 being about as light on beer as you can respectably go.

The astute reader will have noticed that the American drink the Brass Monkey is really just a variation on shandy. A Brass Monkey is made by taking a half-full forty of Mickey’s and filling the balance with orange juice.

It’s a refreshing beverage for a hot day. Why then am I blogging it today? Why indeed.


*Mill is one of those rare philosophers who can consistently described as both a libertarian and a socialist. This could, in theory, mean that there’s something there for everyone to like. Instead it seems to mean there’s something for everyone to hate. Karl Marx: Mill “clumsily repeat[s] the wretched evasions of Ricardo’s earliest vulgarisers.” Friedrich Hayek: “[Mill] probably led more individuals into socialism than any other single person,” and, “I ultimately came heartily to dislike that figure [Mill]”. This is no kind of talk for a fun, hip cocktail blog, so I shall cut it out with all due haste.

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