Search & Distill: Michelada Is Your Standby Beer, Only Better

Just shake out your refrigerator.

Lime and salt can really turn a pitcher of the cheapest beer right 'round. If you're from the Midwest, chances are you're no stranger to tomato or Bloody Mary mix in your beer (aka red eyes or bloody beer). In Mexico, it's Clamato and beer. Put these together and they form the humble origins of this summer's greatest buzz in booze: the michelada.Before this drink goes all uptown, let's get a few things straight. The michelada is one way, with infinite variations, to enjoy cheap beer when you're wilting inside. The most common recipe for a michelada involves Clamato, lime, and salt—but any recipe for the drink is merely a guideline. Drink them long enough, and you're sure to come up with your own personal equation for maximum refreshment. Don't let anyone tell you what it's supposed to be, because the michelada is a personal choice, one of those drinks you could debate endlessly yet never tire of its variations. Order a michelada in five different bars and you're liable to get as many takes on its ingredients.Two things make this drink great: One, it requires cold, light beer, and two, chances are you can make one with what's in your refrigerator right now. Whatever dumb blonde is on sale at the grocery store works best, be it Rainier, Olympia, or Tecate. I prefer a 12-ounce can to a pint, just to ensure my beer's cold until the last drop. Some bars will add ice to the drink as they would any cocktail. Figure out if you like this step, because to me it turns an already light beer into instant backwash.To doctor up a michelada, use any or all of the following: pepper, salt, lime, Tabasco, celery salt, Worcestershire, soy sauce, Clamato, or tomato juice. Start with salt, lime, and one or two flavorings and take it from there. The point is to make your cheap beer 1) more quenching with the salt and lime, and 2) flavorful, with hot sauce, soy, or Worcestershire. Think of it as getting a little Bloody Mary in your beer.Go with a chilled glass if possible, especially if you're skipping ice. If you like salt on your margaritas, try rimming your glass with kosher salt. You can even add some celery salt or cayenne pepper to the mix for an extra little bump. Add the juice of half a lime and a quarter-teaspoon of whatever salty or spicy condiment you're adding, then pour in tomato juice or Clamato by the shot before dumping the beer in last. My secret ingredient: squeezing the juice out of a horseradish jar for the kind of heat that goes straight through the nostrils, because that's what I need Sunday morning.When ordering a michelada at the bar, don't be afraid first to ask how the bartender makes it before requesting your preferred preparation. Redwood has a great house michelada for happy hour—a salt-rimmed pint glass crammed with ice, holding a gaggle of fresh muddled lime and a heavy hand of Tabasco, with a can of Modelo as a sidecar—and they're super-genial about loaning you any other little bottles behind the bar with which to spike it. That's the proper attitude for a drink that has little of its

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