The day before a wedding I went to in Mexico, the bride and groom hosted a party that closely resembled a poolside episode of MTV's The Grind in the best way possible. It was hot — and well, hot. (August, Mexico, you do the math.) And no matter how quickly I drank my Sols, they kept getting unappetizingly warm before I was done.
After downing a couple tepid bottles, I got out of the pool, padded into the kitchen, and took action. I grabbed a keg cup, filled it with ice, poured my beer over the top, squeezed in a few tiny limes, added a dash of hot sauce, and shook some red seasoned salt on top. What I had was almost a Michelada.
A Michelada, I later learned, is supposed to have some sort of tomato juice, while a Chelada doesn't. But even the New York Times Magazine acknowledges this drink is not wed to precision. I refined the recipe upon my return to New York.
I went for a bottle of Negra Modelo and a can of Tecate, then headed to this neighborhood gem:
I planned to grab Cholula or Tapatio (I chose Cholula), but then I saw this on the shelf: a salt and lime shaker labeled para mis chelas. As in, Cheladas?! The woman at the counter confirmed: "Es para cerveza." Sold. It cost $2 and ended up tasting like baking soda, but that's how you learn.
I also bought a little can of Clamato. Between the two beers, one lime, one bottle of Cholula, the sal y limon shaker, and a can of Clamato the tab was still less than $10.
For the Michelada I put some ice in a glass, then filled it about 4:1:1 with Tecate (sort of a Mexican Budweiser), Clamato, and lime juice. I added a few dashes of Cholula and a shake or two of the salt and spices. I'm not sure the Tecate was robust enough for the Michelada (not that it stopped me from drinking it).
Next I tried a Chelada with Negra Modelo, a darker beer (as its name suggests). If you want to make it like a real bartender, try rubbing a lime wedge around the rim of the glass, then dip it in a plate of the red spices.
For this one, the Chelada, I used about 4:1 Negra Modelo to lime juice, and then dashed some Cholula and a little Worcestershire on top. The spicy rim was a great contrast to the limey Modelo. I'm not a big beer-drinker, but the Chelada just might change that.
TIPS FOR LAZY AND CREATIVE BOOZERS
• Mix to taste! Don't sweat the small stuff. Even if you just use Negra Modelo and fresh lime juice over ice with a little hot sauce, you'll have a great drink.
• Stir. Otherwise all the sauces and spices settle at the bottom.
• Some claim Maggi seasoning makes a magical Michelada. Give it a shot!
Jenni Avins is reigning champion of the McCarren Park Greenmarket watermelon seed-spitting competition. She mixes drinks in her New York kitchen, where she also writes about food, fashion, travel, and the arts for various magazines and websites. She makes videos too. Follow her on Twitter @jenniavins