Toby Cecchini has discovered that it's hot in New York in the summer.
Stop the presses!
Writing last week in the New York Times, he weighed in on the heat-soothing aspects of the chelada and michelada, beer-based Mexican cocktails that include, in varying number and proportion, tomato juice, clamato juice, lime juice, Tabasco, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi seasoning, chili powder, salt, and ice.
Now, since I'd heard of cheladas but never actually drunk one and since those of us in South Florida regularly deal with the kind of heat and humidity that would send your average tough-guy New Yorker crying for his mommy, I figured now was as good a time as any to give one a try.
Like so many things gustatory, the history of the chelada/michelada
(which roughly translates as "my cold beer") is about as murky as the
drink itself. The best I could come up with is that it originated in
Mexico in the 1940s and, though periodically flogged by glossy,
four-color gringo food magazines, has pretty much remained a niche
product in the Latin market. It's got to be a decent-sized niche,
however, as both Anheuser-Busch and Miller peddle pre-made cheladas,
available at such giantsupermegamarkets as Publix.
As for the "recipe," there isn't one. Or there are a thousand. Take your
pick. Basically, though, a chelada is beer (light or dark) with lime
juice, ice and in a glass with a salted rim. A michelada ups the ante
with tomato or clamato juice and any or all of the other seasonings,
sometimes mixing salt and chili powder to dust the glass' rim.
Sacrificing my gastrointestinal tract on behalf of you, dear readers,
I sampled the Bud concoction (with clamato, lime, and salt) and created a
michelada of my own, drawing from a dozen or so different sources.
The Bud chelada (that's what they call it, even with the clamato), was
an odd one, like a fizzy, watery bloody mary with enough salt to send
your blood pressure racing toward Pluto. Thankfully, it didn't taste
like clams, but it didn't taste like anything you'd want to suck down at
your next barbecue either.
My own michelada I liked even less, the combination of beer (lager) with
tomato and lime juices, hot sauce, salt, and Maggi (which tastes like a
cross between soy sauce and demiglace) calling to mind the unnatural
mating of a bloody mary with a beef taco. It's gotta be an acquired
My advice: Drink a beer, drink a bloody, drink a nice glass of chilled
rosé, and save the cheladas for New Yorkers who miss their mommies.