Initially, the word shandy was used to describe a blend of beer and ginger beer or ginger ale.
The onset of summer calls for cooler, lighter drinks. Whiskies on the rocks tend to be replaced with icy cocktails and heavier stouts with shandy. Shandy may refer to beer mixed with different types of non-alcoholic beverages like fizzy lemonade. However, initially, the word shandy was used to describe a blend of beer and ginger beer or ginger ale. ‘Shandy’ is actually short for shandygaff, which was recorded in England in the 19th century. Charles Dickens even called it a “perfect alliance between beer and pop". In the late 19th century, shandygaff was modified to shandy, and mixologists began to use lemonade instead of ginger beer. Orange and grapefruit juice followed, as did cider.
Shandygaff, a collection of essays from 1918, linked the word ‘shandygaff’ to the lower classes. American writer Christopher Morley wrote: "Shandygaff is a very refreshing drink, being a mixture of bitter ale or beer and ginger-beer, commonly drunk by the lower classes in England, and by strolling tinkers, low church parsons, newspaper men, journalists, and prizefighters". In the 17th century, shandy was also used to describe those who were wild or boisterous. However, evidence that supports this etymology is scarce.
Radler, a less popular drink, is essentially German lemon shandy. The word ‘radler’ means bicyclist in German. It is believed that the drink was born when an innkeeper from the early 20th century needed to extend the use of his beer supply to be able to quench the thirst of his customers, most of whom were cyclists. Another story says that he wanted to give riders a refreshing beverage with a lower alcohol content. Either way, he decided to mix beer with lemon soda that was easily available. His customers took to the drink, and it was named after the cyclists.
India inherited shandy from the British via colonial clubs and restaurants that blended lager with soda and lemon. Fizzy lemon drinks like Limca and Citra were mixed to create shandy after the British exited the country. The sweetness from these soft drinks made beer more tolerable for those who didn't have the palate for it, and the low alcohol content gave ladies a drink of their own.
Shandy is best enjoyed when beer and lemonade are mixed in a 50:50 ratio. Although the etymology of shandy (and radler) is uncertain, it remains a refreshing drink of beer tempered with a non-alcoholic mixer. Now that summer is here, it’s the ideal time to indulge in a glass.