Everyone has their own way of making a michelada. Like a tradition handed down among families, the recipe depends on your tastes, and the way you’ve always done it, more than on a standard recipe or taste you’d recognize anywhere.

If you order an Ojo Rojo (Red Eye), Clamato Michelada, Chavela, or Clamato beer (depending on where you are), you’ll find yourself with a version made with Clamato or tomato juice and light beer (though Micheladas can come in many hues) for a drink reminiscent of a Mexican Bloody Mary.

Photo 1: The 20/20 Bar & Grill La Casa de Las Micheladas West Covina serves over 50 different types of micheladas.

Step into Las Micheladas in La Paz, Baja California and you can order versions ranging from simple beer, salt, and lime to elaborate concoctions garnished with quince candy and a tamarind and chile paste covered straw.

In New York, bartenders are adding the likes of cucumber, celery and a little turbinado syrup or harissa and preserved lemon to their versions.

Some would argue that these drinks aren’t Micheladas at all, but other types of cervezas preparada, an all-encompassing term for beer mixed with juices and condiments, which has long been part of the Mexican cannon of beverages. The Chamochela, for example, is defined as beer with lemon, salt, chili powder and chamoy, and falls under this umbrella category.

Photo 2: Kin Shop in NYC offers an Asian-style michelada made with fish sauce and sriracha.
San Luis Potosí
Photo 2: Kin Shop in NYC offers an Asian-style michelada made with fish sauce and sriracha.
San Luis Potosí

But where did the michelada come from?

Legends abound as to its origin and definition, but most sources point to Michel Esper Jorge as the man who coined the name in the 1970s.

The hungover engineer was said to have needed a bit of a pick-me-up after playing a round of tennis at the Club Deportivo Pototosino in San Luis Potosí, so he asked for a glass of ice, lime juice, some condiments along with a bottle of beer.

He proceeded to add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and Maggi seasoning (an MSG-based condiment similar to soy sauce) to an ice-filled glass, which he topped with beer. When asked what he called his creation, he shrugged and replied “michelada”.

There’s no such thing as a classic michelada. Not really. If this story is true, then the original michelada was a simple cervezas preparada that Jorge made his own with lime juice, a dash of this and that, and a salted rim. But, perhaps it’s this adaptability that makes this beer cocktail so special.

With unlimited flexibility, it’s the perfect cocktail to experiment with at home, and a great conversation starter—you never know what your friends might put in their Micheladas. If it’s your first time making one, it’s tough to go wrong the basics, which you can build on to make your own house classic.

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