Don’t drink the water- Instead try a Michelada
I know. I know. You think Mexico is all about the margaritas. I actually don’t see Mexicans having margaritas very often. They prefer their tequila in shots or in a “paloma” (tequila and Squirt). For better or worse, I happen not to like tequila. Thinking that I did not appreciate the national drink was a bit depressing, so it was uplifting to discover that there is a Mexican drink made for me.
It’s scary to think about what might not have happened. If my friend’s Beatles cover band hadn’t had a gig at the Michelada bar, I might never have tried them, and never have fallen in love. Micheladas are by far my favorite drink (though I do recommend mescal with sangrito too), and would probably make the list of my top ten favorite things about life in Mexico.
A traditional Michelada is sort of like a Bloody Mary, using beer rather than vodka. Order one and the waiter will bring a frosty, salt-rimmed glass with ice cubes and a mysterious concoction filling about a third of the glass. Then he will pour your favorite beer (I like Indio or Negra Modelo) into it and presto- the most delicious drink you’ve ever tasted.
So, what’s in them? I’ve spent a lot of time discussing this with bartenders in an effort to create my own. It’s an art, not a science. Each restaurant’s Michelada is a little different, but they’re all good so it’s a good idea to try as many as you can. The basic ingredients are lime juice, Maggi sauce, Worcestershire sauce and some type of salsa (Tabasco, Bufalo and Valentino are all candidates). This all adds to a bodacious brew. The extra flavor gives the illusion of food, not just beer. And through some mysterious magic of the limes and tomato, I’ve found that I can drink more of them and remain sober enough to continue drinking longer than I might with just plain beer.
Some variations need to be considered. Menus also offer Cheladas which are beer with lime juice, ice and a salted glass. Once upon ordering in Guadalajara, the waiter asked if I wanted it “Mexicana” or “Cubana”. It turned out that the Mexican style was the Chelada (lime and salt, but no salsa) and the Cuban style was Michelada. Some Micheladas have Clamato in them. This is usually optional, often found at seafood restaurants. If you come to Guanajuato, you should be sure to check out the bar (near the hotel Real de Minas) called Michelada. They offer an entire menu of variations, including ones with tequila.
My favorite? The oh-so-filling, priced to sell, Michelitro. Yep- that’s a liter of my favorite drink for only 30 pesos. Salud!