Some say that if you’ve never had a good michelada, you’ve never truly lived. Okay, that person was me – and while it may seem a bit hyperbolic, just hear me out on this one.
A michelada is a magical frosty beverage with the ability to quench the thirst of mind, body and soul in a way that nothing else quite can. Why is that, you may ask.
First off, its fundamental components also happen to be ingredients necessary for a happy life: beer, lime, hot sauce and salt. From that base you can branch out into hundreds of regional varieties that include everything from Clamato (a tangy clam-spiked tomato juice), to tropical fruits like mango or guava, to full on mountains of shrimp bathing in your beloved chela helada. If you hit the miche jackpot you may even be treated to an XL michelitro that comes complete with a snack of crunchy jicama and juicy piña, garnished with a spiced tamarind wand and generously drizzled in salsa picante. Hypothetically speaking you could even substitute one of these bad boys for a meal, but nothing marries with the savory, spicy elixir like a heaping serving of straight from the sea-viche.
Like many the best things in life, micheladas can and should be modified to cater to your individual tastes. If you want to add some depth, why not splash in a slew of salsas negras like Worcester, soy, or the beloved Mexican Jugo Maggi? If the room is still spinning from the night before, try adding a loving dose of Clamato and think of it as a Mexican Bloody Mary – tequila spike optional – which much like the infamous hangover healers, will cure your crudo in no time. No matter how you mix it, the michelada is bound to seduce and leave you wondering why you hadn’t jumped on to the bandwagon sooner.
Here’s my personal go-to for post-beach (or midmorning) sipping:
Savory Rims Make the World Go Round
If you want to make a michelada right, you’ve got to have the salt to back it up; and not just any salt.
For this drink you’re going to want Grade-A coarse sea salt. Nothing is more dismaying than a michelada that comes with either no salt (the horror) or refined table salt, which does little except to numb your palate and leave you yearning for a true briny rim.
Thanks to the many gems I have discovered in the local tienditas across Mexico, I am now unable to make a salted rim without tossing in some Tajín – an addictively tangy seasoning that literally enhances everything (I even use it to dust my morning mango smoothies). A quick swipe of a halved lime around the edge of your pint glass and a nice, healthy dusting of your speckled salt, and it’s onto step 2.
Pick your Poison
I tend to mix and match my sauces depending on my mood. For salsa picante, I like to hit it with several punches of habanero to kick up the heat – like the intense but flavorful Chimay – and add something with a bit more smokiness and depth; in this case I went with Tajín chipotle. I will generally add a third hot sauce for good measure – Tapatío or anything comparable will work well. Add 4 dashes of Jugo Maggi – a concentrated Mexican seasoning that explodes with umami goodness (or if you’re feeling an Asian influence, try substituting this with Ponzu sauce). Squeeze the juice of two large, ripe Mexican limes and you’re ready for the most important ingredient of all.
Mi Chela Helada
When you think of Mexican beer, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not craft brews with exciting flavor profiles and inventive varietals. I’m happy to report, however, it does indeed exist, you just haven’t heard about it yet – (more to come on the relatively young and totally booming Mexican craft beer scene pronto).
In the case of a michelada, though, the flavor of your beer will be overwhelmed by the other components, thus using a fine ale is simply unnecessary – your frosty Pacífico or Modelo will do just fine. If you are looking for a bit more depth while retaining a light body, opt for the amber Vienna style lager, Victoria. Fill your pint glass up, and don’t forget to leave room for a few ice cubes.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is worse than having your perfectly curated elixir slosh over the side of your glass at the last moment, destroying your beautifully salted rim and leaving behind a mere ghost of the drink that once was. Don’t make that rookie mistake. Think ahead, plan strategically and execute with precision; trust me, vale la pena.
Now comes the best part of all – raise that beautiful glass to the sky (don’t forget to snap a shot for your future Insta fodder), and imbibe deeply in the delicious Mexican tradition you’ve got in your mano.
Felicidades, you now know how to make a michelada – now I just dare you not to have 6 más.