Here’s the history behind the classic drink. 

By Corey Williams
January 28, 2020
Advertisement

Though it’s not quite as pervasive as its more popular cousin, the Bloody Mary, the michelada has a lot to offer. Here’s what you need to know about the classic Mexican cocktail: 

What Is a Michelada? 

Photo: Christopher Testani; Styling: Paige Hicks

A michelada is a type of cerveza preparada, or Mexican beer cocktail. All cerveza preparadas are made with beer and tomato juice or Clamato. What sets the michelada apart is its other ingredients. Along with tomato juice and beer, micheladas are made with lime juice, chile-based hot sauces and spices, and chile peppers. 

The exact ingredients that go into a michelada depend on where you are in Mexico, as every region puts its own spin on the recipe. 

The drink is served cold in a salt-rimmed glass. 

Other Cerveza Preparadas

Other cerveza preparadas you might be familiar with include: 

  • The chamochela, which is made with beer, tomato juice, lemon, chili powder, salt, and chamoy. It’s usually garnished with sweet tamarind candy. 
  • The Negro y Marron, which is made with beer, lemon juice, Clamato, hot sauce, and tequila. 
  • The chavela, which is made with beer, tomato juice, and hot sauce. It’s often garnished with vegetables or shrimp and served as an appetizer. 

Michelada vs. Bloody Mary

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond/Getty Images

Micheladas and Bloody Marys are savory cocktails that contain tomato juice, hot sauces and spices, and are served cold in salt-rimmed glasses. However, that’s where the similarities end.  

The most important difference between the drinks is the type of alcohol used to make them: Michelada recipes call for beer, while Bloody Mary recipes call for vodka. This distinction means Bloody Marys will get you drunk a lot faster. Do with that information what you will.  

Micheladas are also a bit more refreshing than Bloody Marys, on account of the fizzy beer and lime juice. 

What Is Clamato?

Clamato is a commercial beverage made by Mott’s. It contains sweetened tomato juice concentrate, dried clam broth, and MSG. 

It’s often used in addition to or in place of tomato juice in certain cocktail recipes, especially ones with Mexican origins. 

These days, most micheladas are made with Clamato. 

Michelada History

Photo by Kelsey Hansen

There are a couple different theories of how the michelada got its name.

The first is the most obvious: “Mi-chel-ada” is likely short for “mi chela helada,” or “my cold beer.”

Another origin story is more detailed: A man named Michel Ésper was a daily patron of Club Deportivo Potosino (a bar in San Luis Potosí, Mexico) in the 1960s. 

Ésper’s usual order—a beer served with lime, salt, and ice, served in a chabela glass with a straw—became a popular drink among other frequent customers. 

Since the cocktail was served in the same type of glass as lemonade, Ésper’s order became known as “Michel’s lemonade.”

Over time, the ingredients were altered and the drink became the michelada. 

What Type of Beer Should You Use for a Michelada? 

LOVE_LIFE/Getty Images

There’s not a right beer to use in a michelada, but there are some very wrong ones. 

For example, a heavy and dark brew like Guinness would be totally out of place in this light and refreshing cocktail. Instead, opt for a Mexican lager. 

A Corona will work just fine, but a slightly heartier option like Tecate, Pacífico, or Modelo Especial is your best best. 

How to Make a Michelada

Ready to try your hand at making this classic Mexican cocktail? You’re in luck—we have a delicious and incredibly easy michelada recipe right here. (Our version cuts down on ingredients by using a Bloody Mary mix instead of tomato juice or Clamato). 

For a slightly more adventurous recipe, try our Green Michelada. The unique drink gets its earthy flavor and beautiful green color from blended tomatillos and cucumbers.