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Michelada

The devil’s in the details.

By May 2014Comments

Photograph by Jody Horton

Summer is upon us, occasioning a return to picnics and pool parties and cookouts and, of course, the riotous sweating that accompanies all of the above. Every good Texan knows that beer is the only proper antidote, but why not spice things up—literally—with a michelada: a fizzy Mexican lager bedazzled with salt, lime, vinegary hot sauce, and what I like to call umami juice (some sort of soy or wheat-gluten seasoning). It’s a refreshing, low(ish)-alcohol drink that will enhance your enjoyment of the backyard without leaving you facedown in it.

As popular as this icy-hot “beertail” is here, no one seems to be able to agree on exactly what it is. Numerous are its regional monikers (chelada, cubana, red beer), which also seem to correspond to who made it and what he or she put in it (tomato juice? Clamato?). Even the derivation of the word “michelada”—likely mi chela helada, loosely translating to “my cold beer”—is up for debate. However you choose to enjoy the drink, just be sure it’s handcrafted and not one of those mass-produced canned versions, for which there is a special place in hell and, apparently, online beer forums (“This beer has made me believe that Satan is very real”). Better yet, make it yourself, starting with this simple formula and adding or subtracting whatever you like.

Serves 1

To a chilled glass rimmed with lime juice and salt, add:

2 or more teaspoons of bottled hot sauce, like Valentina or Cholula
juice of 2 Mexican limes
a generous dash of Worcestershire
a generous dash of Maggi Seasoning
a pinch of salt (kosher, celery, seasoned with ground chiles—whatever sounds good to you)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Mix together and add ice. Slowly pour in beer (preferably Negra Modelo, Pacífico, or Bohemia) until the glass is full, and stir gently. Garnish with a lime wedge or wheel and serve.

Adapted from ¡Viva Tequila!: Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures, by Lucinda Hutson (Copyright © 1995 and 2013 by Lucinda Hutson). used by permission of the University of Texas Press.

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