The drink of summer: How micheladas cast a spell on L.A.

Lime and salt are the gateway to michelada culture and a key element in the story of the development of the beer cocktail in many places at once. Once a niche drink, spiced micheladas are not only found in bars around the country, they have become widely available. Greg Gallagher, Modelo’s vice president of marketing, says the company’s numbers show that 40% of canned michelada consumers are not Latinos. This is important because micheladas are not yet marketed directly to consumers in English, Gallagher said. Meanwhile, bartenders are making more and more baroque-style micheladas, often garnished with shrimp and fruit seafood cocktails, and non-alcoholic “michelaguas” are popping up at markets night and street fair. Is it getting out of hand? How do we get here? Read on to find out how they grow, where the best wine is drunk, and why their Mexican flavors fit LA

That’s right, it’s michelada season. These are the best of the city

Watermelon michelada

Michelada watermelon at La Chuperia in Los Angeles.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

FROM SOUTH CALIFORNIA’S From the endless number of Latino working-class bars to the most expensive drink spots in LA, micheladas – with styles that include all-around luxury and baroque – are everywhere. Stephanie Breijo, Jenn Harris and Daniel Hernandez surveyed some of the most active and trusted micheladas in Los Angeles and larger Southern California. Read on to find the best we’ve found.

The fight for the craziest michelada is on. But how much is too much?

Chuper michelada from La Chuperia in Los Angeles.

Chuper michelada from La Chuperia in Los Angeles.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

IN RECENT YEARS, michelada has skyrocketed to extremes, fueled by a social media push. Micheladas are often filled with cooked prawns, drizzled in a sweet and sour sauce and sesame seeds, or they are served on the table with fruit cubes or even squishy bears. It’s a race to see how the “miche” can be pushed over the top. They are sometimes mixed with tequila or mezcal, which increases the sense of risk. And elaborate alcohol-free “michelaguas,” made of aguas frescoes, are appearing more and more at night markets and barter meetings. Canned michelada or chelada products (lime and salt only) are rising to the forefront of the niche beer market, from both big beer brands like Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light and local craft breweries like Golden Road and its Guava Chelada Cart. But michelada attracts its most ardent fans as an experience. Anyone will tell you that there is nothing like relaxing on a lawn in the backyard or near the beach on a hot day with a plate of seafood and a homemade miche. I learned a long time ago to always have a jar of chile-fruit spice chamoy and a bottle of Clamato handy in my pantry. How do we get here? Who created the first miche? And more importantly, has the michelada craze got out of hand? Daniel Hernandez explores these questions. Read on for his report.

Know your michelada: Five Basic Types, Illustrated

Illustration of the five basic types of micheladas: gomichela, michelada botanera, chelada, michelada and michelagua.

Five basic types of micheladas, from left: gomichela, michelada botanera, chelada, michelada and michelagua.

(Susana Sanchez / Los Angeles Times)

SOURCE of michelada is still unsettled, but most agree that the original beer drink contained only lime and salt – this is what is now largely known as the chelada. Michelada preparada or michelada cubana is what comes out when salsas and sauces are added. Restaurants that serve Michelada often invent catchy, exotic names for their in-house drink variations. Let them be, but don’t keep them as the standard. If you want, read the five basic food groups in michelada’s universe.

How to create IPA-Lada Michelada


Want to make michelada at home? This grapefruit-flavored IPA-Lada, adapted from the Palomada michelada served at Whittier’s Colonia Publica, is a great way to start.

IN THIS MICHELADA, Adapted from the Palomada michelada served at Whittier’s Colonia Publica, a grapefruit IPA – such as Refuge Brewery’s Grapefruit IPA, Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin or Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA – is the essential ingredient. This dish is brightened with grapefruit and lemon juice, cooled with cucumber, and sweetened with a hint of sugar. Spiced Tajín seasoning in place of the more traditional salt. Read on for the recipe and step-by-step video tutorials. The drink of summer: How micheladas cast a spell on L.A.

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