Pregaming with several six-packs may be fun in theory, but passing out before the party starts is no one's idea of a good time. Still, you can have your beer and drink it, too. The Michelada, which is barely a beer cocktail, tastes fantastic and is lower in alcohol than beer alone, and if you put it over ice you can get two drinks out of every can.
There are two basic kinds of the Michelada in the U.S. and you'll never know which one you'll be served at a bar unless you ask first. One is made with a Mexican macrobrew like Dos Equis, Modelo, or Tecate, plus lime juice and hot sauce, and is served in a salt-rimmed glass. The other is that same concoction, but with tomato juice, like a beer-based Bloody Mary.
And just like the Bloody Mary, nearly every bar has its own version of the Michelada, often with secret combinations of hot sauces, and every bartender thinks his or hers is the best. Here, we take the lead from some of these bartenders and offer suggestions on ways you can up your Michelada game.
Sauce and Salt
Chances are you have at least eight different hot sauces somewhere in your kitchen and maybe a few shakers of specialty salt you bought while on vacation somewhere. You can finally make use of them both, as this drink will tolerate most things spicy and/or salty.
The most basic Micheladas call for Tabasco and often Worcestershire sauce, but bartenders at Ore House at Milagro in Sante Fe, NM create a mix for their Michelada that includes roasted red and green chili peppers and chipotle flakes.
The house Michelada at Empellon Cocina in New York, NY calls for chile de arbol in the drink and smoked salt on the rim. They've also made a version with yuzu habanero salsa in the past, which sounds mighty fine. The Michelada at Book & Stage at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, NV includes chipotle pepper paste and a smoked paprika salt rim.
Other bartenders throw in Sriracha or other exotic hot sauces and rim the glass with everything from Pico Piquin to celery salt.
Tomato juice is just one ingredient that can take the drink into the savory zone. At El Take It Easy in San Diego, CA bartenders use tomato juice, green tomato juice, or tomatillo juice depending on what's in season, plus vinegar and mole bitters.
As with the Bloody Mary, some bars like Gran Electrica in Brooklyn, NY serve the drink with Clamato juice instead. Commercial versions of Micheladas, including Budweiser Chelada, also include Clamato.
At Craigie on Main in Boston, MA however, they get their savory flavor from the beer. Their version uses a homemade Bloody Mary mix with Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen, which is a beer they say tastes like smoked ham. Yum?
Muddle and Juice
Lime juice is the gold standard in the Michelada, but the Super Bowl takes place during citrus season, so see what happens when you squeeze some kumquats or Mandarin oranges in there, especially with the tomato juice version of the drink.
Some bars get extra creative with their add-ins, like Mercadito in Chicago, IL where their Michelada spin-off includes pineapple puree. Bartenders at Pasco Kitchen in Tuscon, AZ muddle cucumbers and cilantro into their version (they call it The Chupacabra), then hipsterize it with PBR and a shot of mezcal.
Other bars keep things simple. At Diablo Taco in Los Angeles, CA they serve you a beer with your choice of tomato or lime Michelada-flavored ice pop, but that might be hard to recreate at home given the lack of Michelada-flavored popsicles at your corner store.
You could, however, imitate bartenders at Rio Grande in San Francisco, CA who take a cue from Mexican kitchen workers in Texas. To make their Michelada, pictured above, run a lime wedge around the rim of a beer can and dip it into salt. Then pop open the can, dash some hot sauce into the hole, and jam the lime wedge into the opening. Done.
That's so low-impact you can do it without moving your ass from the couch and missing part of the game. Until you have ten of them and need to pee.
—Camper English is an international cocktails and spirits writer and the publisher of alcademics.com.