Maybe I was hard-up for a Monday post or maybe I was just looking for an excuse to drink on a Sunday night, you decide. Whatever my motivation last night, I found myself reading about, tinkering with, and – of course – drinking cerveza preparada.
A cerveza preparada is a blanket term for a whole family of Latin American beer-based drinks. Many of us have jammed a wedge of lime down the neck of a Corona bottle, but did we ever imagine that we were only scratching the surface of south-of-the-border enhanced-beer tinctures? I didn’t, especially not after my fifth lime wedge.
But my friend Zoe, who lived in Honduras for a year, has got me started drinking micheladas, which are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these terrific beer drinks, which are spruced up with everything from your standard lime juice and salt to Worcestershire and soy sauces to – *gasp* – Clamato.
All of the recipes below are a really great way to improve on the many bland-to-gross inexpensive lagers available in the US, from your standard domestics to the hipster-beloved PBR to the highly dubious and inadvisable Natural Ice to frat party standbys like Schaefer, “the beer to have when you’re having more than one.”
Like many Americans steeped in our underage drinking culture, I drank these beers in high school in the woods and in people’s basements and I drank them in college in my dorm room and at scores of sticky-floored parties, in both cases because they were (1) cheap and (2) sold in the kind of places that didn’t take the time to wonder why their clientele was made up of so many 20-something Floridians.
(A brief aside: I also drank these beers becausemy father did. He bought PBR for many years until its hipness pushed its price point up above $10 per case, at which point he switched to Old Milwaukee, which, at 43 years old, might be more accurately named Middle-Aged Milwaukee. For a long time, I theorized that he did this to prevent me stealing his beer in high school, but as he’s continued well after I went to college, graduated, and moved into my own place, I am forced to conclude that it’s because he is cheap.)
And let’s be honest, Corona is not a good beer either. We drink it at the beach with a lime in it because their excellent advertising firm has convinced us – myself very much included – that when we are at the beach, we should be drinking Corona with a lime in it. I am not saying that all Mexican beer is bad or that all cervezas preparadas are made with bad beer, but a little extra flavoring is a good way to make the best of a sub-par brew.
My internet research on this topic was perfunctory at best and much of the information I found was contradictory, but here are three things I can say with confidence.
- The name michelada comes from some variety of mi chela helada, which translates to something like “my cold little light beer. (I am no Spansish scholar, so polite corrections from native speakers are welcome.)
- Michelada and chelada describe different variations of cervezas preparadas in different parts of Mexico and Latin America.
- Cervezas preparadas are delicious.
After reaching these three conclusions, I was too frustrated by the contradictions and misinformation and too ready for a michelada to continue.
The recipes below reflect my interpretations of the many, many recipes I found out there. You should play around with these ingredients, and others of your choosing, to find what works for you.
A chelada is the most basic of these drinks. Salt the rim of a tall glass, then add ice and the juice of half a lime. Fill with beer and drink, preferably near a body of water.
A michelada seems to be the most popular of these drinks. Again, salt the rim of a tall glass. This time, add:
A few drops Worcesteshire Sauce
A few drops soy sauce
A few drops Tabasco or other pepper sauce
A few ounces Clamato
Beer to fill
This comes out like a supremely light Bloody Mary and is a must-try for people who find them too much like vegetable soup.
If you’re not into Clamato and its secret ingredient “dried clam broth,” you could also do this with tomato juice or V8, but I’d use less as Clamato is much thinner than either.
For those of you who don’t want to buy tomato juice or Clamato just to make these drinks, follow the recipe above, but just leave out the tomato-based ingredient. It comes out a lot like a chelada but with the earthy kick of Worcestershire. Very tasty.
Gringo Cervezas Preparadas
Lastly, I should mention some beer cocktails from the English-speaking world. The first is the Shandy, which is a half-and-half mix of beer and British lemonade, which is NOT the same as American lemonade. It’s more of a lemon soda affair, and the closest thing that’s widely available here is the San Pellegrino Limonata that’s starting to pop up everywhere.
The second is a drink that my roommate makes, which is essentially a poor man’s mimosa: just beer and orange juice. Shockingly delicious, and like pretty much all of these drinks, a great hair-of-the-dog.
And that’s it for now. If I come up with any more good recipes, I’ll share them in a future post, but for about a million more ideas for mixing up your beer, google “cervezas preparadas” or look here for a lengthy list of ideas from the Brits.