By now, we’re all familiar with the cocktail culture craze. Mixology is everywhere – from the fanciest restaurants charging $15 a drink to chain restaurants trying to get in on the action of gussying up their adult beverages. It’s trendy food lingo that’s worn out its welcome only slightly less than “farm to table”. Lost in all the hullabaloo of burnt orange peels, homemade fizz and eggy foams is a category of cocktails much neglected – the beer cocktail. Well known examples are few and far between – the Shandy, anyone? – but the one most folks might have heard of is the Michelada.
The folksy cousin of the Bloody Mary, the Michelada originates from Mexico. A cooling mix of fresh squeezed lime juice, savory seasoning and cold beer is all poured over ice – salt rim is optional and a lime wedge constitutes garnish. Since I consider myself a Bloody Mary connoisseur/addict, branching off to try Micheladas was an inevitability. They’re far more drinkable and refreshing than the standard brunch cocktail and some still swear by it as a “hair of the dog” elixir. Less boozy, just as flavorful and certainly appropriate later in the day – the Michelada is a drink recipe you should know.
Setting out to find great versions of this classic beer cocktail in Atlanta, I found they are a rarity. Versions can be found at El Rey Del Taco, No Mas Cantina and The Original El Taco. Each spot puts its own twist on the recipe – El Rey lets you add your own beer to a giant glass of tomato juice while No Mas combines their herbaceous bloody mary mix with the beer of your choice. They’re all delicious but one Michelada stole my heart. It’s the Michelada cubana (which traditionally lacks tomato juice) at Bone Garden Cantina on the Westside. Mike, the bartender the day I went, was really knowledgeable about beer cocktails as a genre and makes a wicked Michelada – the perfect balance of spice, saltiness (which comes from the Maggi seasoning – an essential ingredient) and a generous amount of fresh citrus juice. You can pick your preferred beer to make your custom Michelada blend. They’re addictive here and the beer choices to mix and match with abound.
For those non-Atlanta folks that have had their curiosity piqued about this unusual beer cocktail, I’ve included a recipe for the make-at-home crowd. They’re super easy and great to make for a brunch or post Super Bowl crowd…and certainly less expensive than a pitcher of Bloody Marys for eight or ten. If my (extensive) Michelada research taught me anything, it’s this: Maggi seasoning is key – it gives your cocktails a savoriness that really shines. You can find it for cheap in the Latin or Asian sections of your local grocery store. Beyond that, make your recipe your own. Add Clamato for a more straightforward recipe or make cheladas, which are just salt & lime added to beer.
Michelada – makes one beer cocktail
– If you want a salt rim, rub a lime wedge along the rim of your glass of choice and dip in a saucer of kosher salt to create the salt rim. Fill the glass with ice. Build the cocktail in the glass by pouring in the lime juice, hot sauce, Worchestershire sauce and Maggi seasoning. Top with beer to desired level. Stir gently and serve.