Spice up your life – and your lager – with this idea for a refreshing Mexican cocktail. Salud!
Fri 15 Jul 2011 10.00 BSTFirst published on Fri 15 Jul 2011 10.00 BST
A ‘michelada’ cocktail – beer, tomato juice and lime with some hot sauce. Photograph: Oliver Hurley
It’s little wonder that Mexican food, with its strong, spicy flavours and swathes of melted cheese, appeals to the modern British palate. Such is the growing interest in the cuisine, you can barely waltz through the ready-meal section of your local supermarket without being confronted by rows of microwaveable enchiladas.
Channel 5 is joining the fiesta with Mexican Food Made Simple (Tuesdays, 7.30pm), a new series from Thomasina Miers, co-founder of Wahaca, a quartet of London restaurants whose menu is based on “Mexican market eating”. And popping up on high streets across the country are Mexican-inspired fast-food joints such as Mission Burrito and US import Chipotle.
Despite the surge in such burrito- and taco-based diners, their drinks menus are largely interchangeable, especially when it comes to beer: expect Corona, Sol and (if you’re lucky) Modelo Especial or Negra Modelo, all of which are eminently palatable, if slightly unadventurous.
It was only when I visited Cafe Pacifico in Covent Garden recently that I came across the michelada, a uniquely Mexican cocktail comprised primarily of tomato juice, hot sauce, lime juice and beer, usually served with ice in a salt-rimmed glass. Its curious savoury delights make it an acquired taste – perhaps one of the reasons it’s little known outside Mexico – not to mention the fact that drinking beer with ice cubes in it feels like an affront to the brewing process.
But for lager lovers seeking a seasonal alternative, there’s a lot to be said for the michelada. The unexpected combination of flavours and the kick from the hot sauce provide a compelling – and surprisingly thirst quenching – element, making it a great long summer drink. Perhaps due to the inclusion of salt and ice cubes, your brain is tricked into thinking that you’re not drinking cerveza at all – somehow the sensation of being wrong-footed only adds to the michelada’s appeal.
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It’s a common drink in Mexico, where in some parts of the country it’s called chelada (although, confusingly, this can also refer to a version of the tipple without the tomato juice). In contrast, trying to order one down your local is only likely to result in a lot of explaining. So make them at home, where you’re likely to already have a good chunk of the ingredients to hand. I’m no mixologist but its components can liven up even the most unappealing can of lukewarm session lager. Unsurprisingly, given its status as a wayward cousin of the Bloody Mary, it’s also purported to be a good hangover cure.
1 large glass
4-5 ice cubes
About 50ml tomato juice
A few dashes hot sauce (ideally a Mexican sauce such as Cholula but Tabasco is an acceptable if rather more acidic-tasting alternative)
A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 bottle or can of beer (use a light Mexican beer such as Corona for authenticity but, really, whatever lager you’ve got to hand will be fine)
Wet the rim of the glass with a wedge of lime and dip it in the salt. Save another wedge of lime as garnish and squeeze the juice from the rest of the fruit into the glass. Drop in the ice cubes, pour the tomato juice and sauces over them, and fill the glass with beer (use any that’s leftover to top-up the drink as you go). Stir gently and pop the wedge of lime on the rim.
There are endless permutations of the recipe: many eschew the tomato juice or suggest the inclusion of more lime juice, pepper or soy sauce (Cafe Pacifico offers both “regular” and “spicy” micheladas). Some recommend using a chilled glass but, if you’re chucking in ice cubes anyway, it’s not really necessary. After trying various permutations, I’ve discovered that I prefer no more than a snifter of tomato juice and a generous dose of a potent hot sauce – otherwise it can be too much like drinking a large glass of gazpacho. If you really want to get the party started, bung in a shot of tequila too. Salud!