The michelada is an anomaly: a beverage made of ingredients that really shouldn’t work together, yet somehow manage to sing. Cold, light lager mixes with tomato juice, lime, and a medley of spices, sauces, and seasonings in this distant Mexican relative of the bloody mary. The result makes for a savory-yet-refreshing afternoon sipper or the ultimate hangover cure for your Sunday brunch.

Micheladas come from a family of Mexican beer-based cocktails called “cervezas preparadas.” The basics: beer, lime, and tomato juice. But variations abound, and in Mexico you’ll find anything from clamato juice and chili powder to lemon and soy sauce in your glass. Some even come topped with shrimp, sliced vegetables, or other snacks for the peckish imbiber.

Whose idea was it to marry tomato, spice, and beer in this oddly harmonious union? No one knows for sure, though one story points to a man named Michel Ésper. Ésper was a regular at a sports club in San Luis Potosí, where he ordered his beers on ice with lime and salt — as though they were lemonades (limonada). Others who visited the same club would order “Michel’s limonada,” eventually shortening the name to “michelada.”

A second, less colorful explanation suggests “michelada” simply comes from the phrase “mi chela helada,” which translates to “my cold beer.” As for the addition of lime, tomato, and hot sauce — well, that remains a mystery.

The perfect michelada has total balance; it isn’t overly salty, sour, or spicy. You want to taste every ingredient without any one flavor overpowering the others. This recipe calls for healthy doses of lime and tomato juice (or clamato, if you prefer a hint of fishy funk) and just enough hot sauce for a bit of a bite. It also calls for Maggi seasoning, an umami-rich sauce invented by the Swiss similar to soy or Worcestershire (and available in most supermarkets). Adding just a teaspoon brings a savory depth of flavor that makes this cocktail incredibly satisfying.

Recipe for the Perfect Michelada, Our #1 Hangover Cure

  • Ice
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato juice (or clamato juice)
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 1/2 tsp hot sauce (I recommend Tapatio)
  • 1 tsp Maggi seasoning (or soy sauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups Mexican-style lager
  • Tajin seasoning or salt for the rims of the glasses
  • Garnish options: ground black pepper, lime slices, celery stalks, cilantro sprigs

Combine all of the ingredients in a pitcher. Prepare four glasses by wetting the rims and dipping them into a shallow bowl of tajin or salt. Pour the cocktail into the prepared glasses and top with garnishes of your choosing.

Looking to snack while you sip? Go for dishes with a similar flavor profile: try shrimp tacos, chips and salsa, or huevos rancheros. Or something as simple as a freshly-opened bag of Takis.

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