Last Updated on October 31, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Shandy and Radler are two beer-based beverages perfect for quenching our thirst on a hot summer day, but they each bring their unique twist to the table.
While both drinks are truly refreshing beer options, one stands out more than the other. So, if you’re confused about which beer drink to savor, this comparison is for you!
Having had the pleasure of sipping both, let me shed some light on the difference between Shandy vs Radler.
In-Depth Comparison of Shandy & Radler
Both the Shandy and Radler are citrus beverages that are perfect as a thirst-quencher, providing a light, citrusy flavor profile.
However, the main difference between a Radler and a Shandy lies in their origins and brewing traditions.
“Shandy’s zingy fizz meets Radler’s citrus twist – two paths to the perfect thirst-quencher.” – Liquor Laboratory
Shandy, a classic British drink, combines beer with lemonade or soda, while Radlers, hailing from Germany, blends beer with citrus juice, typically lemon or grapefruit.
Despite their distinct backgrounds, both drinks can provide a refreshing alternative to a traditional beer experience – suitable for a hot summer day.
Read: Beer vs Hard Seltzer
Radler vs Shandy Cheat Sheet
|Alcohol Content||Typically lower (around 2-4%)||Slightly higher (around 2-3%)|
|Popular Flavors||Lemon, ginger, lime, etc.||Lemon, grapefruit, lime, etc.|
|Cultural Influence||British and Irish||German|
|Commercial Varieties||Widely available||Common in Germany|
|Serve Over Ice||Sometimes||Often|
|Typical ABV Range||2% – 4%||2% – 3%|
|Seasonal Availability||Year-round||Summer months|
Now, let’s explore the key difference between a Radler and a Shandy in more detail:
Shandy, known initially as Shandy Gaff, traces its roots back to 1850s England, where it mixed beers with ginger ale or ginger beer.
As time passed, lemonade or lemon soda replaced ginger ale, and “gaff” was dropped, simplifying it to Shandy.
In contrast, Radler beers  emerged about seven decades later in the small town of Bavaria.
In 1922, a group of cyclists halted at a Munich inn, where beer garden owner Franz Xaver Kugler, running low on beer, mixed it with citrus juice (either lemonade or grapefruit).
He dubbed it the Radlermass, with “Radler” denoting cyclist and “Mass” representing a liter. This citrus beverage was born out of necessity and quickly became a hit.
As mentioned, Shandy comes from “Shandy Gaff,” an old slang term for a mix of beer and ginger beer or ginger ale. In Germany, a Shandy is known as a “Biermischgetränk,” which translates to a “beer mixed drink.”
Meanwhile, Radler translates to “cyclist” in German, as it was named after a thirsty cyclist who requested a beer combined with lemonade at a Bavarian inn in the early 20th century.
But the tap is running low on beer, so the owner mixed it with citrus juice instead.
Shandies are typically made by mixing beer with soda or lemonade (even lemon-lime soda), while Radlers combine beer with citrus or fruit juice, often lemon or grapefruit.
But take note – the traditional Radler drink consists of blond lager (usually Pils or Helles) and sparkling lemonade, while the classic Shandies uses the same blond lager or wheat beer and ginger beer.
Shandies are usually made by mixing beer (pre-brewed) with the chosen mixer, originally ginger beer, but now lemon soda or lemon-lime soda.
Conversely, Radlers are brewed as a single beverage, with a mix of beer and fruit juice (typically grapefruit or lemon juice).
Shandies fall under the category of beer cocktails, while Radler is considered a style of beer, specifically a Radler Lager.
So, both Shandy and Radler involve mixing beer with other drinks, but a Shandy is a broad category of beer cocktails, while Radler is a specific style of beer that includes the addition of fruit sodas.
Calories & Carbs
I find Radler lower in calories and carbs. It only has approximately 139 kcal and 22g carbs per 339g serving. Also, Shandy contains around 18g of sugar.
Shandy, on the other hand, is slightly higher in calories and carbs. It has around 150.8 kcal and 25.5g carbs per 368g serving.
The difference between their carbs and calorie count is minimal, but it can be your deciding factor, especially if you’re diet-conscious.
I like the versatility of Shandy since it goes well with various mixers like lemonade, ginger ale , or sodas. I can make the following cocktails:
- Shandy Beer Cocktail
- 7Up Shandy
- Summer Shandy Cocktail
In comparison, I can also mix Radler with other mixers, but it typically tastes great with lemonade or grapefruit juice, though experimentation with other fruit juices is common. I can make these recipes:
- Campari Radler
- Salzburg 75
- Bourbon Radler
But I can say that these beverages can make delicious summer refreshments.
Price & Value
I find Shandy a more cost-effective option, especially for those seeking sweetness and a milder beer experience.
“Shandies were the perfect alliance between beer and pop.” – Charles Dickens, Novelist and Social Critic
On the other hand, Radler cans can be slightly pricier due to the use of fruit juice, but the difference in crisp taste justifies the cost.
What do Americans call Shandy?
Shandy is often referred to as a “Radler,” in the United States, following the German naming convention.
What makes a beer a Radler?
A Radler is defined by its beer and fruit juice mixture, usually lemon or grapefruit. It should have a crisp, light, and refreshing character.
In this Shandy vs Radler face-off, both beverages provide a delightful alternative to regular beer, making them perfect choices for the warm weather.
However, when it comes to picking out the best, Radler edges out Shandy for its slightly lower alcohol content, stronger cultural roots, and unique blend of beer with fruit juice that truly captures the essence of a refreshing summer drink.
So, if you’re looking for the perfect thirst-quencher on a scorching day, I suggest opting for a glass of Radler and enjoying the zesty, invigorating flavors it brings to the table. Cheers!