It’s May and there’s no denying that Spring in full swing in the Western hemisphere. For me, nothing marks the welcomed changes than switching to lighter yet still tasty beers. Lagers, pilsners, wheat beers are just some of the styles that come to mind (well, at least to my mind). Another way to enjoy beer during this time is via the beer cocktail. What is a beer cocktail, you say? While it may sound like an oxymoron – especially to purists who would not dare dream to mix anything with their beloved brew – beer cocktails have been around for quite some time. My introduction to these interesting mixes was the Black and Tan, a combination of a stout and a light ale. I then moved on to the Snakebite, a refreshing mix of a stout and a hard apple cider. Other common beer cocktails are the Black Velvet, the Shandy, and the (scary) Irish Car Bomb. You don’t have to go to an Irish pub to get these drinks; most places that serve these types of beer will create the mixture of your choice.
While I normally enjoy a tasty microbrew straight up, I am always willing to try something different. Take, for instance, the michelada. Although it sounds like a car tire and not a drink, I assure you the mighty michelada is not composed of rubber, but of beer. So what is this drink and how did it get its funny sounding name? This beer cocktail hails from south of the border, the land of Coronas, Cabo and Cancún. Its name derives from the slang term for beer in Mexico, chela. From there, the word michelada roughly translates to “my beer.” The first time I had a michelada was in the early 90’s in Mexico City. I was hooked instantly. Even as I write now, my mouth waters in a reflex just thinking about the beer-lime-salt concoction. In Mexico, there are different kinds of micheladas — original style (which is now simply called a chelada), or with Maggi seasoning sauce, tomato juice, and/or hot pepper sauce.
While you may sneer at this combination that sounds crazy, give it a try. It is crazy, but it works. If you can’t find a restaurant or bar that serves this cocktail, it’s easy to make one yourself. You’ll need the following: a chilled Mexican beer (such as Modelo, Pacifico, Corona, or Dos Equis), a lime, margarita salt, tabasco sauce, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, black pepper, a margarita glass and a small whisk. Cut the lime in half and squeeze some lime juice on to the rim of the glass, then rim the glass with the salt and set aside. In a small bowl, add a dash of tabasco sauce, a dash of soy sauce, two dashes of Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of black pepper. Add your beer to the spice mix and whisk gently. Slowly pour into your margarita glass and voila! For an extra touch, you can also add a splash of tomato juice when mixing up in a bowl.
Remember that the michelada is an authentic Mexican beer cocktail, and what better way to enjoy Cinco de Mayo with a tasty, spicy drink? Of course there are times to savor unadulterated beer (99% of the time), and times to squeeze a lime in your Corona or throw in an orange slice in your Blue Moon. While michelada time can be whenever the mood strikes, it’s a wonderfully refreshing drink on a warm sunny day or a cold spring day where we can take a sip and pretend it’s 80 degrees out.
If you are a no-nonsense, straight up beer drinker, why not give a beer cocktail a try? It’s so easy to order an old faithful, but with so many wonderful craft beer choices and cocktails, it’s a rediscovery of sorts for your tastebuds. If you don’t want to invest the time to make a beer cocktail, I don’t blame you. It’s so much nicer to have one made for you at your favorite bar and easier to open a bottle cap at home and pour your beer in a glass. In any case, I challenge you to at least try one beer cocktail this month, and who knows, you just may be so inspired to run to the store to buy michelada ingredients! ¡Salud!