Learn to mix an authentic Chelada beer drink and become familiar with its background.
- You can go straight to the Recipe Card or
- Read the post (2 mins) for more information and tips on Chelada.
What is a Chelada?
The Chelada is a traditional Mexican beverage which is essentially a light lager combined with lime juice and salt.
There are no tomato juice, sauces, clam juice, spices, clamato or tequila involved. These ingredients belong to its cousins – the Michelada, the Clamato con Chela, Michelada con Clamato and Ojo Rojo.
Chelada is a very refreshing low alcohol cocktail and perfect to enjoy on a hot summer day. In Mexico the beer drink is often used to alleviate the discomforts of a hangover – it is very common to have a glass in the morning or in the middle of the day.
The name of the Mexican beer and lime cocktail is rooted in the Spanish word chela.
In Mexico and other Central American countries chela is slang for cerveza (beer). Phrases like ‘Vamos a tomar unas chelas’ (‘Let’s go drink some beers’) and ‘Una chela bien fría, por favor’ (‘A very cold beer, please’) are commonplace.
Chela also means a blonde (feminine conjugation) and it is very likely that a golden lager (cerveza is feminine in Spanish) came to be called chela. Just like in France a light beer is often referred to as bière blonde and a dark one as bière brune.
A cold chela is a chela helada (la helada means frost in Spanish) which is thought to have become shortened to chelada. Hence the name of the cocktail emerged as a derivation of a slang word.
Round up these ingredients:
- Beer. Traditionally the chela for Chelada is a cerveza clara – light, bright, crisp, pilsner-like lager such as Modelo and not a cerveza obscura (dark lager) such as Dos Equis Ambar or Victoria. It must be chilled – the colder, the better.
- That being said many contemporary bars in Mexico will use an amber lager to mix a Chelada. But if you want to be very authentic go with the light beer. If you’d rather use a US craft brew choose something with lighter body brewed to resemble a refreshing golden Mexican lager. For example: Ska Brewing Mexican Logger, Sierra Nevada Brewing Sierraveza or Upslope Brewing Craft Lager.
- Lime. Make sure that you use a fruit as fresh as possible and chill it before you juice it. About one to 1 1/2 limes per drink is typical, adjust to taste.
- Salt. It must be a good quality coarse rimming salt. Sometimes contemporary versions are prepared with Tajin, a popular Mexican brand of chile lime seasoning, but traditionally plain rimming salt is used. The chile lime salt is characteristic of Michelada (see below).
With or Without Ice?
Traditionally the Chelada beer mixed drink does not use ice cubes. As they say in Mexico ‘la cerveza se toma sin hielo‘ or ‘the beer is taken (drunk) without ice’.
The whole point is for the beer to be cold and preserve its richness brightened up by the fresh lime juice. This is consistent with the general rule of thumb for beer cocktails – ice is either not used at all or used minimally when hard liquor is involved.
Do or do not add a few ice cubes on top, it is up to you. We find that if the lager is nicely chilled the ice is not necessary – it distracts from the overall flavors as it dilutes the drink.
How to Make a Chelada?
Mixing a Chelada beer is quite simple.
- wet the rim of a glass with a bit of lime
- dip in a dish of coarse salt
- squeeze lime juice directly into the glass – we are not talking a small squeeze of lime here, get your trusty citrus squeezer out and go for it
- add a pinch of salt (optional but traditional) and stir
- fill the glass with beer, stir and garnish with a lime (optional)
TIP: To avoid foaming over stop pouring the lager before it reaches the salt rim. When in contact with the beer the salt creates nucleation sites which cause it to fizz up. You can top off the glass after the foam has dissipated.
What Does a Chelada Taste Like?
The chelada builds up on the idea of squeezing a piece of lime into your Corona. Since quite a bit more lime juice is added to a flavorful lager in combination with salt it tastes vibrantly tart with playful salinity or as we like to say – sprightly balanced.
What is the Difference Between a Chelada and a Michelada?
People often confuse the Chelada beer with the darker, chili-spiked Mexican beer cocktail, the Michelada. The difference between the two is in the seasonings.
In short, if you mix a beer cocktail with lime juice and salt, you have a Chelada.
If you add hot sauce, seasonings and Worcestershire (salsa Ingles) the drink becomes a Michelada.
Additionally Michelada is typically mixed using amber (dark) beer in the style of Vienna lager which is brewed so well in Mexico.
Other Mexican Beer Drinks You Might Like
- 12 oz Mexican lager (light, golden pilsner-like style such as Modelo)
- 1 1/2 limes or 2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice*
- coarse rimming salt (mostly for the glass and a pinch to flavor the cocktail)
- ice cubes (optional, if using only a few is recommended)
- Run a lime wedge along the rim of a glass to wet it and dip the rim into a shallow dish filled with salt.
- Squeeze the lime juice directly into the glass. Use a citrus squeezer for best results.
- Add a pinch of salt and stir.
- Pour the beer and be careful to stop in time before it makes contact with any salt on the inside rim of the glass (it will fizz up excessively and may overflow). Stir and garnish with a slice of lime if desired.
Chill beer and limes before using.
*A typical lime yields about 1.5 oz of juice.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 146 Total Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 599mg Carbohydrates: 28g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 3g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 3g