Thanks to the giant beer corporations pushing variations on the chelada (beer, lime, and/or tomato juice) in a can, the word “chelada” has become pretty well-known. Unfortunately, it is akin to how the word ramen came to be known in the U.S. — as a brand, not an actual thing.
The original inspiration for these canned novelties has unfortunately been overlooked. But it’s not too late. The next time you find yourself in the mood for an ice cold cerveza with a good amount of lime, don’t reach for an all-in-one solution. Grab a six-pack of your favorite Mexican beer and a half dozen limes. If there is ice in your freezer, you are on your way to crafting one of the most refreshing summer drinks you’ll ever taste.
Similar to bloody marys, there are numerous preparations of this drink. Some take tomato juice or Clamato, others call for soy sauce, hot sauce or Maggi seasoning. Some have lemon and lime juice, some have olive juice. Others call for horseradish juice of all things.
All are perfectly plausible and any person enjoying a particular recipe is correct. My version, and the one served at Capitol Bar, takes a far simpler approach. For beer, I prefer Modelo Especial, though no need to get picky here. Any cerveza will do the trick. In a salt-rimmed pint glass filled with ice, add the juice of one lime, pour your beer and sip away.
For my salt, I combine kosher salt with New Mexico red chile powder, though smoked paprika or standard chile powder would work as well. You could additionally add a few dashes of hot sauce, soy sauce or a splash of tomato and nobody’s feelings would be hurt. But in my mind, the more ingredients you add, the more it begins to take away from the refreshing nature and purity of this beer cocktail. Drink this right after mowing the lawn in the July heat and see if you don’t agree.
As for the name, it’s safe to say it wasn’t created by a beer company from St. Louis or Milwaukee. There are a couple of stories of its origin, but the most believable one is that it is Mexican slang, a combination of ‘mi’ (my), ‘chela’ (beer) and ‘helada’ (iced). Basically translated as “my cold beer.” Mmmm…. cold beer.
Kevin Hopper doesn’t have a lawn to mow, but if he did, a michelada would be nearby. He makes his version at State Street cocktail haven Capitol Bar.
One 12-ounce Mexican beer (Modelo Especial is my go-to)
Juice of one lime
Chili/salt blend (find New Mexico chili powder if you can)
Salt the rim of a pint glass with chili salt. Add ice and lime juice. Slowly pour beer into the glass. Sit back and enjoy.