It’s Time to Rethink Micheladas, a Complex Mexican Icon

Tim McKirdy It’s Time to Rethink Micheladas, a Complex Mexican Icon

3 minute Read

The Michelada is a Mexican icon. But, like many icons, ask a dozen adherents to define it and you’ll get just as many answers.

If you order a Michelada in the U.S., you’ll likely receive a Mexican lager spiked with tomato juice, hot sauce, and lime.

In Mexico, however, Micheladas are a diverse category of beer cocktails. In Mexico City, for example, “a classic Michelada is served in an ice-cold, salt-rimmed glass with freshly squeezed lime juice and beer,” Marco Dorantes, a mixologist at the city’s Fifty Mils cocktail bar and winner of this year’s World Class Mexico cocktail competition, says.

In other regions of the country, the cocktail Dorantes describes is known as a Chelada. A Michelada, on the other hand, is a complex cocktail, rich in local condiments like umami-rich Maggi sauce; tangy, sweet and sour Chamoy sauce; and fiery hot sauce.

No one seems to agree on where the name comes from, either. Some Mexicans attribute it to a contraction of the phrase “mi chela helada,” or my ice-cold beer. Others say it’s a reference to Michel Ésper, a man credited with inventing the cocktail in San Luis Potosí, a region in north-central Mexico.

As the story goes, Ésper liked to order his beers with a refreshing mix of ice, lime juice, and salt at his favorite sports club. The combination soon became popular with the establishment’s other patrons, who called it drinking a beer Michel-style, or Michel-ada. It later spread throughout the country, its ingredients evolving along the way.

Cocktail historian David Wondrich believes the Michelada first reached the United States via Texas in the 1990s. It’s unclear whether tomato sauce was first added north or south of the border, however, or why this preparation is the one that’s stuck here in America.

Whether it’s an Americanization or not, one can order a Michelada with clamato in Mexico. But it’s just one of a number of variations that have become increasingly popular in the country’s capital in the last four years, Dorantes says.

Variety, as everyone knows, is the spice of life. So here are some of our favorite forms of Mexican Micheladas.

Chelada

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle Mexican lager
  • 2 limes
  • Salt
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Cut the limes into eight wedges. Rub the rim of a tall glass with one of the wedges and rim with salt.
  2. Squeeze 6 lime wedges into the glass.
  3. Add a few ice cubes.
  4. Top with a cold bottle of Mexican lager.
  5. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.

Michelada Cubana

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Cut the limes into four wedges. Rub the rim of a tall glass with one of the wedges and rim with salt and chili powder.
  2. Squeeze two lime wedges into the glass.
  3. Add Maggi sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Valentina hot sauce. Mix well.
  4. Add a few ice cubes and top with a cold bottle of Mexican lager.
  5. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.

Michelada con Clamato

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle Mexican lager
  • 1 lime
  • 4 ounces Clamato juice.
  • 1 ounce Valentina hot sauce
  • ½ ounce Maggi sauce
  • ½ ounce Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and chili powder (75:25 mix)
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Cut the limes into four wedges. Rub the rim of a tall glass with one of the wedges and rim with salt and chili powder.
  2. Squeeze two lime wedges into the glass.
  3. Add Clamato juice, Valentina hot sauce, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well.
  4. Add a few ice cubes and top with a cold bottle of Mexican lager.
  5. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.

Michelada Chamoyada

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Cut the limes into four wedges. Rub the rim of a tall glass with one of the wedges and rim with salt and chili powder.
  2. Squeeze two lime wedges into the glass.
  3. Add Worcestershire sauce and Chamoy sauce. Mix well.
  4. Add a few ice cubes and top with a cold bottle of Mexican lager.
  5. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge and Tama-Roca candy stick.

Michelada Rusa

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle Mexican lager
  • 1 lime
  • 4 ounces unsweetened grapefruit soda (i.e. Spindrift)
  • Salt
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Cut the limes into four wedges. Rub the rim of a tall glass with one of the wedges and rim with salt.
  2. Squeeze two lime wedges into the glass.
  3. Add grapefruit soda.
  4. Add a few ice cubes and top with a cold bottle of Mexican lager.
  5. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.

Mezcal Michelada

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle Mexican lager
  • 1 lime
  • 1 ounce Valentina hot sauce
  • 1 ½ ounces mezcal
  • Salt and chili powder (75:25 mix)
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Cut the limes into four wedges. Rub the rim of a tall glass with one of the wedges and rim with salt and chili powder.
  2. Squeeze two lime wedges into the glass.
  3. Add Valentina hot sauce and mezcal. Mix well.
  4. Add a few ice cubes and top with a cold bottle of Mexican lager.
  5. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.

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