How to pour the perfect Black and Tan

blacktan How to pour the perfect Black and TanThe we heart this Cocktail of the Month for October was a no-brainer. I have been waiting months for the perfect time to pass on the secret to pouring the perfect Black and Tan. What better season then that of Oktoberfest, to enjoy the American version of this classic drink combining the best of both beer worlds? Originating in British pubs, a Black and Tan is a made from a combination of a dark beer (usually a stout or porter) and a pale ale or pale lager (according to Wikipedia the lager version is commonly called a half and half).

Before we start, I should mention this involves ice-cold beer (I know some beer purists like warmish beer, but this American girl wants her hops icy cold). If you’re looking for a more European flare, the omniscient Wikipedia lists Black and Tan variations from around the world. Also, this cocktail isn’t exactly a secret, I was just so happy to have perfected the technique, I had to share! Our version calls for:

* Lager Glasses
* One spoon (that you don’t mind bending)
* Dark Beer – we recommend Guinness
* Pale Ale Beer – we recommend Harp’s or Bass

To impress your friends with this layered drink, it is imperative to start with ice-cold lager glasses (stash all that you have in the freezer the night before, so you’re ready to pour when guests arrive).

spoonblackandtan How to pour the perfect Black and TanYou will also have to prepare the spoon by bending it at the base as pictured. It’s possible to buy a Pouring Spoon%name How to pour the perfect Black and Tan made specifically for creating Black and Tans, but we’re too thrifty to spring for it.

First, pour the Pale Ale or Lager into the frozen glasses – just a smidge over the half way mark.

Pouringblacktan How to pour the perfect Black and Tan Then, place the spoon upside down (with the bump facing up) over the center of the glass and s-l-o-w-l-y pour the Guinness onto the spoon and into the glass.

Don’t freak out if at first the drink appears to be mixing too much. Give it a minute (and don’t you dare move the glasses) to let the foam and beers settle. While you wait, you can explain to your friends that the relative density of the Guinness is less than that of the ale or lager, which allows for the cool layering effect.

Once you’ve impressed your friends with alcohol and science trivia, if the beer gods are smiling upon you, you will be rewarded with a perfectly separated Black and Tan. Cheers!

Note: When preparing seconds (or thirds or fourths) you must start with fresh, frozen glasses for each drink. Attempts to reuse glasses, have always failed to produce the proper layering effect.

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Written by Tyna Werner


  1. Profile photo of winnie

    I was there to witness the entire thing! It was magicial! and delicious! I normally am not a black & tan or half & half kind of gal but i hadn’t had one in years and this was yummy! Personally, i perfer Harp’s over Bass but i think it would be harder to find. As i was drinking it, i felt like i was in an Irish pub on 3rd Avenue! but i was actually in West Hollywood.

  2. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
    Tyna Werner

    Just look at that lovely Black and Tan! Actually, the B&T is not quite finished settling in that picture – we were going to take another and then the “bartender” (my roomie Eric) became impatient and moved the glass – ruining the perfect shot.

    Oh well, they still tasted yummy! Even people that are not big beer drinkers, love B&Ts, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there you go.
    .-= Tyna Werner´s last blog ..Mutineer Magazine – Interview with Alan Kropf =-.

  3. Profile photo of irene

    I love how that looks! I used to make Half and Half’s on a regular basis years ago. Harp Lager topped with Guinness- USA Style. I’m going to have to find my bend over-sized spoon again and make some.. They are delish!
    However, Being Irish, it’s hard for me to call or order a Black and Tan. See what wars can do! It ripples down for generations! One of the first things I learned was don’t’ ever ask for a Black and Tan in an Irish Pub. HUH? Crazy or what? I so didn’t understand the big deal. Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, Black and Tan is not a drink commonly consumed in Ireland. Rather, the drink has major image problems in many parts of Ireland. Why? Here’ a little history lesson. Because of the association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force which was sent into Ireland by British Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill, during the Lloyd George premiership back in the early 1920s and nicknamed the Black and Tans. Due to the ferocity of the Tans’ behavior in Ireland and the atrocities committed, feelings continue to run high regarding their actions. “Black and Tan” or “Tan” remains a pejorative term for British in Ireland, and they are still despised by many in Ireland. One of the most famous Irish Republican songs is Dominic Behan’s “Come out Ye Black and Tans.” The Irish War of Independence is sometimes referred to as the “Tan War” or “Black-and-Tan War.” This term was preferred by those who fought on the Anti-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War. The “Cogadh na Saoirse” medal, which was awarded to IRA Volunteers after 1941, bears a ribbon with two vertical stripes in black and tan.
    So, you will usually hear an Irishman/women only ask for a Half and Half! A traditional Half and Half in most parts of Ireland consists of half warm or room temperature Guinness and half chilled Guinness. In the early days, refrigeration was of course unavailable. As refrigeration came into existence in the 20th century, that a mixture of the two temperatures created the perfect drinking temperature for Guinness. Most Guinness poured in Ireland is served at about this temperature, roughly 44 degrees Fahrenheit. In the United States, Half and Half consists of Harp Lager topped with Guinness. Half and half implies that both ales come from the Guinness Brewery. The reason the Guinness goes to the top of the glass is because it is the lighter in pacific gravity.. and it even lighter in calories..

    1. ReaderRita

      I think you might mean “specific gravity” (ie: the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a standard- in the case of liquids, it’s water) rather than “pacific”…
      what can I say…I’m a big nerd.

    1. ReaderRita

      I was a bartender (for way too long), and was taught to make these without bending the spoon. You just have to hold it backside up, as flat as you can get it- pour the Guinness over the bitter or lager slowly- and that works fine; no innocent cutlery is harmed in the process!

    2. ReaderRita

      You can layer certain kinds of shots, too- way fun! (unless you have a bar-load of 300 people who want them all at once)
      It’s that wacky specific gravity thang again…

  4. Profile photo of Mel

    This is funny tonight girls! Are we all consuming our black and tans – I know I am! Thanks for all the Irish info – my daughter is a wee lassie, so I appreciate the lessons! And it looks beautiful, T!

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