Hot Ale Flip

The American colonists' original cocktail.

Hot Ale Flips were all the rage at a time when fire pokers were ubiquitous hearth accouterments and warm beer was lauded as tonic. One of the earliest known mixed drinks, the flip was referenced as early as 1695 in William Congreve’s society farce Love for Love: “We’re merry folks, we sailors: we han’t much to care for. Thus we live at sea; eat biscuit, and drink flip.”And though flips were associated with a rough crowd in England (Nathan Bailey’s An Universal Etymological English Dictionary [1721] defines flip as “a sort of Sailor’s Drink”), it was beloved in taverns on the other side of the Atlantic. George Washington was known to drink them in the early years of America.

In those days, ale was often mulled (finding an ice-cold one would’ve been something of a challenge—refrigeration wasn’t invented yet), and doctors prescribed it for indigestion, insomnia and colds. In taverns, flips were often composed of rum or brandy, eggs, molasses or sugar and beer all mixed together in a pitcher and then stirred to a caramelized froth with a hot poker. The poker was eventually replaced with the “ale-warmer,” which consisted of a tin or copper vessel that heated and funneled the drink from the pitcher to the pint. Today, the stove top will do just fine.


Serving: 1

  • 8 ounces ale, brown or dark
  • 1 1/2 ounces rum or brandy
  • 1 1/2 ounces brown sugar syrup (1:1, brown sugar:water)
  • 1 egg

Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg

  1. In a tempered or heat safe pitcher, whisk together the rum (or brandy), brown sugar syrup and egg.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the beer until just steaming (do not bring to a boil).
  3. Very slowly stream hot beer into the rum and egg mixture while whisking so the egg does not cook.
  4. Carefully pour the mixture back and forth between the pitcher and saucepan (or another pitcher) several times to create a frothy mixture.
  5. Once frothy, pour the mixture into a heat safe mug and garnish with grated nutmeg.
Editor's Note

Because beer tends to be ultra bitter today, the Hot Ale Flip can skew earthy. This recipe can be tweaked to include cream, spices or more sugar depending on the beer used and your preference.