The perfect michelada demands restraint

I used to think I didn’t like micheladas, until I realized that I’ve just been drinking them wrong for most of my life. Usually, when I’ve ordered or followed a recipe for this spicy beer cocktail, the results resembled a beer meets Bloody Mary flavor bomb, rather than what it should be: a refreshing, spicy seasoned beer on ice.   

One of Mexico’s most popular drinks, the michelada comprises hot sauce, lime and cheap, light beer — plus perhaps a splash of tomato juice and Maggi seasoning or Worcestershire sauce. The drink’s name represents maybe the world’s best contraction, combining “chela,” a slang term for beer; “ada” from “helada,” meaning cold; and “mi” for mine — a.k.a “my cold beer.” Depending on which bar’s door you darken in which part of the country, you’ll find countless riffs — all quenching enough to ease you through a blazing summer afternoon. 

It took moving to the borderlands of southern New Mexico — where micheladas are affectionately called red beers — to realize the error of my ways. One scorching Friday at the Elephant Ranch in Las Cruces, we ordered a round, which arrived in clear plastic cups rimmed with lime and salt, already beading condensation. Easy-drinking Mexican lager stained pale red from tomato juice and puckering with lime, salt and chile, they went down remarkably fast. As we crunched on the spicy ice remains, someone asked, “Another round of red beers?” 

“Sí, claro.” 

When my husband and I set out to recreate them a couple weeks later for a cookout, we began as we often do, combing through food magazines and recipes to piece together the right combination of flavorings and ratios. Some called for worcestershire, others for Maggi seasoning; some preferred clamato juice over tomato. Some drizzled in Cholula, others swore by Tabasco or Tapatío. Some rimmed the glass with salt, others with that glorious, tangy chile salt, Tajín. Unlike before, though, we now knew that while our seasoning options were endless, a light hand would yield the very best red beer.

Cook’s Notes

If you rim the glass with salt instead of Tajín, add an extra dash each of hot sauce and worcestershire.

Don’t feel limited by the flavorings I’ve listed. Swap in your favorite hot sauce. Increase or reduce the lime or tomato juice to your taste. It helps to taste the concentrate at the bottom of the glass before adding the beer to be sure it’s calibrated to your liking. 

(My) Perfect Michelada


1 servings

Prep Time

5 minutes

Cook Time



Tajín or coarse salt for the rim
1 thick lime wedge
2 tsp fresh-squeezed lime juice
3 or 4 dashes hot sauce (I like Tapatío)
Half a jigger tomato juice
Scant 3 dashes worcestershire
1 light Mexican beer, such as Corona, Modelo, Pacífico or Tecate


  1. Shake a few teaspoons of Tajín or salt onto a plate or shallow bowl. Rub the lime wedge along the rim of the pint glass and then dip the rim into Tajín or salt.
  2. Fill a pint glass ¾ of the way with ice. Add the lime juice, hot sauce, tomato juice and worcestershire. Mix to combine.
  3. Fill the rest of the way with beer and garnish with the lime wedge. Drain and repeat a reasonable number of times. 

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