Micheladas: Where to buy these Mexican cocktails in SoCal and how make them at home

By Evan Kleiman

La Sirena with spirulina and a candy rim at Alta Baja in Santa Ana. Photo by Karissa Maya.

When you say the words “Mexican cocktail,” everyone immediately assumes you’ll be talking about Margaritas, but the most common Mexican cocktail is the Michelada, or beer cocktail. It’s made up of the Chelada, an ice cold beer with lime and salt. Chela is Mexican slang for beer, and helado means ice, frozen or chilled. The Michelada is built on that base. 

It’s my preferred cocktail when cooling down is urgent, like after a couple of hours working in the garden. The tomato heavy version made with Clamato is very popular, but I’m suggesting a different approach to customize your beer on ice experience. Think salty, savory, sour and spicy and sweet if you must. 

The first and simplest involves using condiments you already have. A Michelada Preparada and is made with a light (not lite) beer like Sol, Corona, Pacifico or a light craft lager. 

Here’s how to make it: I put ice in the glass, add a couple dashes of Maggi (the yeast based juice, not the cube) or soy sauce if Maggi isn’t around, and a couple dashes of Worcester or A-1 steak sauce. Then I squeeze in half a regular lime or two Mexican limes, add Tapatio or Cholula to taste then pour in the beer. Then I adjust for sourness, saltiness and heat. If I am craving a bit more funky salty flavor, I will add a dash of fish sauce. If I’m feeling more sour, I might add a tiny bit of tamarind concentrate. If I’m looking for a drink with more sweetness, I’ll add some orange juice and/or tomato juice to the umami base of the original. Fresh fruit and/or fruit juices can also add sweetness like the seasonal one Alta Baja is making with watermelon and chamoy. If you want to go full tomato, instead of using Clamato, think of the drink as a beer-based Bloody Mary, adjusting the spiciness to fit a Mexican flavor profile, so chile sauce instead of horseradish and fish sauce for the umami funk.

If you want to get a prepared mix, the Guelaguetza’s Fernando Lopez makes a really good one called I Love Micheladas.


La Chismosa at Alta Baja in Santa Ana. Photo by Lea Salazar. 

Michelada Preparada or Savory Michelada

Ingredients

  • Glass with ice
  • Tajin for the rim
  • 1 teaspoon Maggi or soy sauce, or to taste
    OR
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire or steak sauce (optional) or to taste
  • A few dashes of Tapatio or Cholula or other chile sauce to taste
  • Dash fish sauce (optional), to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • Crisp Mexican or craft beer
  • ¼ cup tomato juice (optional)
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice (optional)

Fruity Micheladas

Ingredients

  • Tajin for the rim
  • Glass with ice
  • 2 to 4 oz fruit juice of your choice (for pint glass)
  • Lime juice
  • Chile powder or sauce (optional), to taste
  • Pinch of salt

Where to buy Micheladas

Alta Baja - Santa Ana

A large variety of Micheladas from a simple lime and chile rim to a hangover breakfast with toast, avocado, bacon and a fried egg on top.  I usually get La Mera Mera which is the savory one.


Alta Baja has a fanciful Micheladas menu. Photo by Delilah Snell.

Colonia Publica - Whittier

The Michelada menu starts with a Chelada and moves through the increasingly baroque.

Diablo - Silver Lake

Features a beer served with a tomato-based Michelada spice popsicle you can either drop in the beer or nibble alongside your beverage.