Memorable brunches are typically defined by bottomless cocktails, good friends, tasty nibbles, and a slight hangover. But when you’ve had too much fun the night before and need a recovery drink that is going to lift your spirit and soften the weight of the many drinks still in your system, the Michelada is the savory beer cocktail that will undoubtedly ease your hangover without feeling like you’re really having the hair of the dog.
It falls into the savory cocktail category and is similar to the Bloody Mary; but instead of using the spirituous vodka, the Michelada contains spice, acid, and some alcohol — in this case, beer. In Mexico’s popular tourist-filled cities, such as Mexico City, Micheladas can be tasted everywhere from fashionable cocktail bars, to casual street vendors — each version different than the last as it can be garnished with an array of ingredients from shrimp and bacon, to chilis and other vegetables.
Although grain beer is one of the most consumed beverages in Mexico, the Michelada has only recently risen to popularity within the last 15 years in America due to the commercialization of drinks such as Budweiser’s “Chelada” which is available in a RTD (ready-to-drink) canned format for imbibers to enjoy on the go without the fuss of mixing, even though the drink is best enjoyed when made fresh. Now, the cocktail has cemented its place as a less-boozy brunch cocktail at many Mexican bars and restaurants, as well as everyday American restaurants.
“[The Michelada] makes an excellent brunch drink because it is light on alcohol, savory, and the spiciness wakes up all of your senses,” Alex Valencia, bartender at La Contenta in New York City, says. “It is an easy drink to make for the bartenders, and is a great hangover remedy.” Valencia, who grew up in Mexico, says that the drink has been popular ever since he was a child and dates back to the early-to-mid 20th century.
Ordering a beer sola (on its own) is typically the preference amongst most locals as the domestic and microbrew options are virtually endless with Mexico’s burgeoning beer culture, but cervezas preparadas (beers prepared) have their place as well — especially at Mexican carnivals and celebrations, Valencia notes.
In addition to the well-known Michelada, there is a range of similar beer cocktails that each have their slight differences and are worth noting as well. First, there is the Chelada — made with a beer (typically a lager), lime, and salt; then there is the Michelada, which is one step up from the former by adding hot sauce to the mix and a Tajín rim; the Leon Rojo is an evolution of the Michelada which adds a savory component such as tomato juice, or Clamato (tomato juice with clam broth and spices); and, lastly, there is the Cubana which ditches the tomato juice for Worcestershire sauce (aka salsa inglesa, or English sauce). Some recipes are more involved than others, but the Michelada reigns supreme because of its simplicity and quality.
How to Make the Michelada
If you find yourself brunching at home, crafting a few Micheladas is as simple as it gets. Valencia stresses that the salt, lime, and a quality hot sauce (such as Valentina salsa picante) are crucial for a balanced and revitalizing Michelada; “without any of those three ingredients, you can fail on the flavor,” he says. Salt is one of the most daunting ingredients for some drinkers, but Valencia ensures that it helps balance the mixture and ties together the spice, citrus, and beer perfectly.
To make the Michelada, whether you need it for its hangover-healing properties, or just for its flavor, here is the perfect recipe to try, according to Valencia, who adds a small dose of orange juice for body and balance.
Alex Valencia’s Michelada
- 1 oz hot sauce
- 1 oz lime juice
- .5 oz orange juice
- 2 barspoons fine sea salt
- Beer, to top
- Tajín rim, for garnish
- Rim a pint glass, or mug, with the Tajín.
- Add the hot sauce, lime, salt, and orange juice to the glass, then stir the ingredients until most of the salt is dissolved.
- Add ice, then top with beer and lightly mix to integrate the ingredients, and enjoy.
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