With spring just around the corner, it's time to kick off the winter blues and start introducing your tastebuds to the kind of drinks designed with sunshine, pools, and beaches in mind. It might be hard to beat a cold beer, but if you want to add a splash of variety to your drinking experience, now might be the moment to welcome two new words into your lexicon and two new cocktails into your life - namely, the Chelada and the Michelada. If you've ever been to Mexico (or just have an appreciation for all the good food and drink that comes out of it), you might have heard of one or maybe even both of the drinks before. You might even have found yourself ordering what you thought to be a Chelada and found yourself sipping on a Michelada instead.... which is more common than you might think. With beer as the primary ingredient of both drinks, it's easy to get confused between the two. So, what is the difference between a Chelada and a Michelada? And why should you care either way? Here's what you need to know.
What’s a Chelada?
On a hot summer's day, it's hard to beat a refreshing Chelada. Easy to make and even easier to drink, this citrusy Mexican cocktail is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. But what exactly is it? Actually, there's nothing even slightly complicated about it. Whereas the spicy contents of a Michelada might make some people's heads spin, a Chelada is a comparatively tame combo of beer, salt, and lime. If you're already used to sticking a lime wedge in your bottle of Corona, you're already halfway there. If you want to keep things authentic, do as thespruceeats.com recommends and use a Mexican beer brand like Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, and Pacifico. Otherwise, experiment with different types (most work surprisingly well with salt and lime) or stick with your usual favorite. In terms of the taste, it's exactly what you'd expect of a drink made from beer, salt, and lime - refreshing, morish, and with a mild but still distinct flavor profile. Delicious either on its own or with a bowl of chips and guacamole, consider it your new summer essential.
How to Make a Cheleda
If you're ready to up your beer game, here's how to make the perfect Cheleda.
- 1 12-ounce bottle light lager
- 2 limes
- Coarse salt
- Lime wedge to garnish
- Ice cubes
Cut one of the limes in half and rub it several times along the edge of a large, tall glass. Once it's well-coated with lime juice, rim the edge of the glass with salt. If you want to get fancy, use a mix of salt and chili instead. If you're not sure about how you feel about salt and beer, salt one-half of the rim only so you have a choice.
Squeeze the juice of the second lime into the glass and add a handful of ice cubes. If you're tempted to skip fresh lime juice and stick with a bottled variety instead, think again. Most packaged lime juices have added sweeteners or flavor enhancers, both of which can wreak havoc on the finely balanced flavor profile of the cocktail.
Pour in the beer. Enjoy! Depending on how much ice you add, you might not finish the bottle. If you don't, serve it alongside the Cheleda so you can keep refreshing it as you go.
What is a Michelada?
So, now we know what a Cheleda is, it's time to discover more about its wilder cousin, the Michelada. The best way to think of it is as a pimped-up version of the Cheleda, with a handful of extra ingredients and a much bolder flavor punch. Like the Cheleda, beer forms the base, but unlike the Cheleda, you get a lot more than salt and lime with it. The recipe varies by region, but as a basic rule you can expect beer, lime, salt, spices, salsas, and tomato juice, all served in a lime and salt and/or chili powder rimmed glass. In some places, you'll also get a few chiles for extra bite. In many ways, a Michelada is like a Bloody Mary that's lost its vodka and gained a beer. It's also fully customizable, so don't be surprised if you order a Michelada and find yourself with something that looks more like a meal than a drink, with shrimp, candies, meat, and pickles all jutting out of the top. You might also find some with additional seasonings such as hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, black pepper, serrano peppers, chamoy powder, Maggi sauce, and soy sauce. According to Wikipedia, there are two main chains of thought about how the Michelada got its name. The first involves a man called Michel Esper who was a frequent guest at the Club Deportivo Potosino in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, in the 1960s. Esper's drink of choice was a beer served with lime, salt, ice, and a straw, poured into a "chabela" cup and served like a lemonade. Other customers soon started asking for a glass of "Michel's lemonade" (or "Michelada" as it soon became known), which gradually started incorporating more flavors and ingredients as time went on. Another theory goes that Michelada is a portmanteau of mi chela helada - as chela is a widely used term for beer in Mexico, asking for a "mi chela helada" is the equivalent of asking for "my ice cold beer."
How to Make a Michelada
Michelada is the kind of drink you can play around with as much or as little as you like. The base ingredients are the same as the Chelada (beer, lime and salt) but as to what (and how many) kinds of spicy seasonings you add, it's entirely up to you. The following recipe can be used as a guide but feel free to adapt the spices to suit your palate.
- Coarse salt
- 1 12 oz bottle of light beer
- 1/2 tsp hot sauce
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 3oz Clamato
- Juice of 1 lime
Rub the lime wedge along the rim of the glass before dipping the rim in the coarse salt.
Fill the glass with ice and add the juice of half the lime Add the Clamato and sauces.
Pour in the beer, stir with a long spoon, and enjoy.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith