Labor Day drinking: A history of proletarian benders and a guide to drinking on the job.

What Beer To Drink on Labor Day—and on the Job

What Beer To Drink on Labor Day—and on the Job

Wine, beer, and other potent potables.
Sept. 7 2015 10:08 AM

A Prole’s Guide to Drinking

What beer to quaff on Labor Day—and on the job.

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Someone—perhaps an Old Bolshevik named Lazar Kaganovich—said that you can’t expect to make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Same goes for a controversial beverage described in the book Yuengling: A History of America’s Oldest Brewery:

At the bar in the early morning hours, a “Miner’s Breakfast” could be ordered: two raw eggs dropped into a glass of beer after being cracked on the rim. The miner would first gulp a shot of whiskey and then soothe his burning throat by chugging the raw egg and beer concoction. Then, it was off to the mines.

You may have watched stevedores drink beers with eggs before clocking in at the dock on The Wire or seen Paul Newman’s alcoholic lawyer do it in The Verdict. You may have heard the combination touted as a virility potion, particularly in connection with Guinness. You may even have smelled the kind of barfly who treats it as a regular pick-me-up—the tall cousin of the prairie oyster, which is a seasoned raw egg served with or without brandy. But have you tasted it yourself?

Egg in the vicinity of beer.

Photo by Hemera/Thinkstock


Wanting egg in my beer, I cracked a cage-free number into a glass of Smuttynose Robust Porter. The yolk brightly sank through the glass, and the drama of this, like the sight of the black beer sitting atop the golden treasure and its squished ellipsis of albumen, quickened the pace of my slurping. The egg coasted down the gullet with gratifying sliminess, and a final trickle of brew punctuated the glug.

If this icks you out, then perhaps it will settle to your stomach to know that, as a matter of settled law, I wasn’t eating the egg but drinking it. Or to understand that adding egg to your beer is not just for manual laborers. That much is clear from a scan of The Ideal Bartender, published in 1917 by a country-club bartender named Tom Bullock, who offers a simple anytime recipe for a cold ale flip; the Republican patriarch George Herbert Walker wrote the introduction, vouching for Bullock and “the nectar of his schemings.” A century later, Anvil, a well-regarded bar in Houston, has taken a maximally mixological approach to the egg-enhanced boilermaker. Its frothy Rooster Cogburn involves one whole egg, one shot of Buffalo Trace bourbon, 2 ounces of India Pale Ale, 1 teaspoon of cane syrup, and half an ounce of a “lager syrup” made from Lone Star, the crappy regional lager of Texas.

While this witty beverage is appropriate for a sophisticated evening, there remains the crucial matter of how best to booze at a home-cooked Labor Day brunch. Try this:

Flip ‘n’ Serve Breakfast
¾ ounce brandy
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 large egg
6 ounces porter, stout, or other dark ale
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Put the first three ingredients in a shaker. Shake vigorously to emulsify the egg. Add ice to the shaker and shake again. Strain into a chilled highball glass. Gently pour the dark ale—a milk stout would be delish—into the glass. Garnish with the nutmeg. Serve with a straw.

This is such a fine beverage—with a head like cappuccino foam and a body like an elegant coffee milkshake—that I feel obligated to remind you not to make that uncouth sucking noise with your straw when approaching the end of it.

Use the half bottle of beer left behind to improve upon the recipe above so that the drink hits extra parts of the palate. Even a squeeze of lemon juice would add interest, but ardent cocktailians might add two dashes of black walnut bitters or substitute orgeat for the maple syrup. Or maybe this is the opportunity for which a neglected nut-based liqueur in your pantry has been patiently waiting. You’ll make something work.