The Bloody Mary may be the queen of brunch, but like any monarch who’s grown too comfortable on the throne, her reign has grown decadent and depraved. She’s adorned herself with ever-more ostentatious accouterments. It started modestly enough — an olive here, a pickle there — then came the shrimp, the bacon, the chicken wings, the beef sliders…Soon, Mary’s head bowed under the weight of her garish crown.
Mary has lost touch with her humble beginnings. There was a time, in the court of King Cole, when Mary knew herself — a shot of vodka, bit of tomato juice, a splash of lemon, a sprinkling of spices. Then came the charlatans and toadies with their Sriracha and horseradish, their sweeteners and spices. What had she become? Cocktail sauce? Gazpacho? If you have to chew it, is it still a cocktail?
I offer, then, for your consideration the Michelada. A combination of cheap beer, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, tomato juice (occasionally), and Maggi seasoning, the popular Mexican cocktail is every bit the savory sipper as the Bloody, but with without all the gaudy pretense. It also has the benefit of being lower in alcohol, which means you can enjoy more than one without needing a post-brunch siesta.
The Michelada’s origins are not entirely clear. One story credits a Michel Ésper, who enjoyed his beer with lime, salt, and ice in a special cup called a chabela. The order eventually became known as “Michael’s lemonade” or “michelada.” Another theory suggests that it’s a portmanteau of mi chela helada, or slang for “my cold beer.”
Like the Bloody Mary, the Michelada recipe has many variations, and is susceptible of getting every bit as complicated and overloaded as its American cousin. My advice is to start simple and experiment based on your taste.
1 whole lime juiced
2 drops Cholula, or your preferred hot sauce
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Maggi seasoning
1 pinch ground black pepper
Mexican lager beer (Tecate, Modelo Especial, etc.)
*Tomato juice is optional, and not all recipes include it. Some recipes call for a 1:1 ratio of juice to beer, but start with an ounce or two and add more to your taste.
Directions: Rim a pint glass with kosher salt. Add ice, and the remaining ingredients except the beer. Top off with beer. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Jim Sabataso is a writer, cocktail enthusiast, and bar director for The Palms Restaurant in Rutland, Vermont. Follow him on Twitter @JimSabataso