Cocktails don't always need to feature hard liquor. Many concoctions stem from bases made with low proof spirits, wine, or, in this case, beer. A cold, spicy, citrus-laced beer cocktail was made for hot days, and the Michelada hits all those notes and more.
The Michelada might in fact be the simplest form of a beer cocktail, often featuring only a few ingredients. Typically, a Michelada consists of a light Mexican beer, Mexican-style hot sauce (like Cholula), and citrus—usually in the form of lime juice, although I’ve also seen lemon used as well. From there, the recipe can go in many directions, with Maggi liquid seasoning and Worcestershire sauce being common add-ins.
A Michelada—With or Without Tomato Juice?
You’ll see some describe the Michelada as a variant of a Bloody Mary but looking back at early recipes seems to belie that lineage, as the addition of tomato juice recipes appears to be a recent development. However, variations with tomato juice have become some of the most popular versions of the drink, so we’ll include it for this recipe—but if you’re not a tomato juice fan, go ahead and leave it out!
Origins of a Michelada
So where did this delicious combination of beer, spice, and lime juice come from? There are several stories out there of dubious origin, but I’m inclined to go with booze historian David Wondrich’s tale of Michel Esper Jorge, who in Northern Mexico, in the 1970’s, possibly named the drink and included the hot sauce and savory seasonings.
The doctoring up of beer being an activity of much longer standing in Mexico. Since the drink’s exact origin story is still hazy at best, its base ingredients can vary greatly, allowing for lots of creativity and mixing of ingredients. (But one thing it will always have is beer!)
What Type of Mexican Beer to Use?
Any brand of Mexican pale lager will work in this recipe. I used Corona here, but Tecate, Modelo, or Pacifico all work in relatively the same way in the recipe. You can even use an American Pilsner, but avoid dark beers to stay in line with the traditional flavor profile.
A Mexican-Style Hot Sauce
A Mexican-style hot sauce is the second most important ingredient here. I use Cholula because I like its pronounced chile flavor, but as I know people have intense brand loyalty to their favorite hot sauce, I’ll just say: choose something you enjoy.
The Michelada is one of those truly free and easy cocktails where adherence to any recipe is completely optional; you can tweak the beverage to suit your taste and make it your own. Here are a few variations to try—try them alone, or combine ideas from a few, if you’d like!
- Swap the tomato juice for Clamato! A popular choice for a Michelada is , a seasoned blend of tomato and clam juice. The clam juice gives the drink a powerful, salty umami flavor.
- Make it smoky! A dash of liquid smoke to your drink adds a rich, smoky flavor that offsets the sweetness of the tomato juice.
- Make it savory! Maggi seasoning and Worcestershire sauce are both popular seasoning ingredients in Mexico. Add 2 dashes of each to make a more savory flavor to your drink along with a small pinch of freshly ground black pepper.
Tips and Tricks When Making a Michelada
- If you’re not sure if your glass will accommodate all of your ingredients plus a full bottle of beer, add all of your ingredients minus the beer to your glass filled with ice, and then slowly pour the beer over everything until you reach the top. If there’s some beer left over, you can top your drink off later. This technique also mixes all your ingredients together without the help of a spoon or straw too!
- Looking to make this for a crowd? This recipe easily scales to accommodate how ever many guests you’re looking to serve. Keep the beer separate, and in a small pitcher combine the tomato, hot sauce, and lime juice at a 1:1 ratio (i.e. Use the single drink recipe to use as your guide for the ingredients. If you’re serving 4 people, then you would need 4 ounces tomato juice, 2 ounces lime juice, and look at about 8 dashes of hot sauce. Not sure if everyone likes it spicy? Just add half the amount and leave the hot sauce container out for guests to add on themselves).
When thinking about glassware to serve the drink in, keep in mind that the Michelada uses a full 12-ounce bottle to make one drink. You could always split that between two people if you wish, but sticking with this recipe, choose a roomy, tall glass, like a 20-ounce glass which can hold the entire drink.
Be mindful of not adding too much ice either, especially if you’re adding in the tomato juice. Other glasses you can consider would be a beer mug, which can hold a variety of sizes, depending on the one you choose, or even a Weizen glass, which holds up to 24 ounces.
1 tablespoon kosher salt, for rimming glass
1 tablespoon Tajín, for rimming glass
Lime wedge for rimming the glass, plus fresh lime slices for garnish (optional)
12 ounces beer, such as Corona
1 ounce tomato juice
2 to 3 dashes Mexican-style hot sauce, like Cholula
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 lime)
Rim the glass:
Mix the salt and Tajin together, then pour onto a plate that is slightly larger than your pint glass.
Take the lime wedge and generously rub it around the outside rim of your glass. Dip the rim into the salt and Tajín mix. Set aside.
Fill the glass with ice and beer:
Fill your rimmed glass 2/3 with ice, and then slowly pour in the beer.
Add the remaining ingredients and serve:
Next, add in tomato juice, hot sauce, and lime juice, as well as any additional mix-ins you want to use.
Gently stir and garnish with limes if desired.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 1g||1%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||1%|
|Total Carbohydrate 49g||18%|
|Dietary Fiber 7g||25%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 77mg||385%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|