Friday Froth: Viva La Michelada

James Gribbon

Call it a "bloody beer," and I will have you flensed. An associate from Oklahoma calls them that, and his entire recipe consists of V8 and Gas Station Lite, like some sort of godless swine. I call it a michelada when I drink them, and you should, too. This sounds prescriptive, and it's intended to, because it's best to be forewarned and forearmed when we encounter a new specie. 

I have long been a fan of the bloody mary - in fact, I credit her with saving my life many a time during the Great Patriotic Keg Wars of my early 20s, but 30 was stealing up on me like Trotsky's assassin before I was swept up in the red coup of the michelada, and I've been a member of the party ever since, comrade.

Mistakes were made along the way, of course. '

This is a recovery drink

,' I remember thinking. '

A sort of tremens-drip for the drinking class. It stands to reason that the more vitamins, minerals and other assorted Earth-stuffs, the better, yes? V8 is packed with many of the vegetables I hate, 


 it's bound to be good for me/this drink

.' Ice, hot sauce, salt, pepper and beer went into the glass with the red fluid from the colorful bottle, and the results more successful than The Great Leap Forward only in that no one actually died. It was like drinking carrot juice from a storm drain. 

Live hungover and learn, though, I say. Years of alchemical experimentation, combined with a steadfast dedication to waking up in a state where two of the three heads of Cerberus refuse to so much as sniff me, have ground away the excess from the blunt stone of my ignorance and revealed the sculpture of the icon within. I will drag a chair onto the green grass of a warm morning and down this michelada recipe, (or near enough, depending on whim and blurred vision) by the pint. I will also, as is currently the case, do so under a foot and a half of snow, and indoors, the better to avoid spooking the tauntauns grazing in the yard.

Note: no promises are being made here about the authenticity of this recipe, or the heritage of its component parts. It owes much, in fact, not to Old Mexico, but to 

Toby Cecchini 

and the 

New York Times

, whose own suggestions I have altered and added to in order to suit my own taste. Try the following to your own peril and delight.

First: booze, because that's the entire point of this operation, isn't it? The magic hand which guides the myriad pieces of our shattered selves back into recognizably human form, and permits interaction with a new day in the cruel world? Yes.

Pacifico. That is my beer of choice when making up a michelada. There is a richness to Pacifico Claro which adds a satisfying weight and smoothness to the drink's gestalt without throwing a more cloying level of malt into the proceedings like an overweight seatmate on an airline. Mexican beers likewise tend to have a "summery" taste with which I associate this drink, but that's a psychosomatic tic too far for this article. Sol or Modelo will do, but Corona is better fit for watering horses. This first item will become your last step. You'll see.

One of the many wonders of the michelada is the fact that it is mixed and served in the same receptacle, because doing dishes after you've just escaped the mossy jaws of crapulence is its own kind of despair, and we're here to make this day better, not worse. So: get you a glass mug with a handle on it. The kind you found within reach least September when you came to with a dirndl wrapped around your head. 

But I digress.

The reason you need a glass with a handle on it is because, unless it is as hot outside as two rats fucking in a wool sock, we will not be using ice.

I can hear your gasps, and the gnashing of teeth, and the thunder of hundreds of browser windows slamming shut, but here's 

the fact

: ice "cooks" cocktails. It waters them down, weakening the flavor components and undoing what we have done. Most of the constituent parts of this recipe enter the glass cold, and they will remain that way longer apart from the warmth of our hands, which remain aloof on the handle.

Tomato juice. Just straight up, with as few additives as possible. Get what you like.  

Worcestershire and soy sauces. Tomato stands up well to additional umami, and I like to start with a base with a little bit of meatiness to it. A healthy dash of soy adds this, plus salt, and the volume of Worcestershire added should be roughly double the amount of soy.

The juice of one whole lime. This perks up the entire mixture with acid and sweetness, and pairs well with the fruit from the tomato, and the beer.

Hot sauce. Your call how much to use, but I don't like it adulterated with other elements, i.e. garlic, chipotle, etc. - even piri piri is kind of pushing it, but your taste may vary, and that's why mixology and cooking are arts and not sciences. Middle-brow sauces like Tabasco, Cholula, or Frank's Red Hot do just fine. The point is the capsacin.

Pickle brine. This is an excellent source of herbal content for the drink, and I like to use brine from spicy pickles to add a different kind of heat on top of the hot sauce, plus a faint suggestion of sugar, for balance.

Juice the lime, add the W&S sauces, the hot sauce and brine, and pour a good five ounces of tomato juice into the glass, then fill it with the beer. The effervescence should do the mixing for you.

NOW comes the important part. THE ingredient which takes this from "Huh" to "I want you inside of me this instant,"  and that is: celery salt. 

When I was in college there was this guy who had a cart he brought out each night at sundown from which he sold crispy-grilled Polish sausages on buns. Over them was poured a sweet concoction of molasses, spices and grilled onions he called "Comeback Sauce." The celery salt is the Comeback Sauce of my michelada. 

I find coated rims add an unnecessary step. I don't need to turn my drink every time I take a sip, and my beverage shouldn't require me to, as if it was some sort of self-imposed OCD. I just sprinkle a heavy dose of celery salt directly on top of the drink, the way fresh pepper is added to a salad. Drink it down and skim that layer off the top, and add more. This is my suggestion to you but, again: your mileage may vary.

The concept of champagne being just for special occasions is a well-worn fallacy, as we all know, and thus it should be for the michelada. It is good on hot days, cold days, at night, and in one of the back pews of a funeral where you're pretty sure no one is looking at you anyway. So: do drink up, enjoy(?), and remember who did you right during your resultant glow. Cheers.

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