Michelada vs Chelada vs Clamato beer vs Chavela – we cover the building blocks of these refreshing beer based Mexican cocktails, compare and contrast them and give you authentic recipes.
If you ever felt confused about what makes a Michelada different from a Chavela or exactly how to prepare a Clamato drink and if it is the same as an Ojo Rojo – you are not alone.
Besides the fact that they all include beer, there are two other key components of Mexican beer drinks – seasonings (collectively known as preparations) and juices (citrus, tomato, clam juice, various tropical fruit). The combination of these determines the type of beer cocktail or cerveza preparada (prepared beer) as they are commonly referred to.
Beer. A cerveza preparada is always centered around a Mexican lager. It can be cerveza clara (clear, light-bodied golden beer brewed in the style of pilsner lager) or cerveza obscura (flavorful dark beer brewed in the style of Vienna lager or dunkel lager). Even though many people use them interchangeably, the authentic recipes call for a specific type of beer, which is always bottom fermented, i.e. lager. The beer contributes specific flavors on account of its grain bill, hops and effervescence.
Preparations. The seasonings aka preparaciones are blends of salt, spices (chiles, dried citrus rinds etc), picante and umami sauces. When mixed with beer the result is literally a prepared beer.
Juices. Mixing lime, lemon or tomato juice with beer is a fundamental practice when it comes to Mexican beer cocktails. When the tomato juice has clam juice added to it, the resulting clamato adds unique umami and brininess to the drink. (Here is How to Make Clamato Juice in case you are not interested in using the commercially sold one loaded with corn syrup, MSG and artificial flavorings).
Juices from tropical fruit such as pineapple, coconut, papaya and mango are used in versions of Michelada and in practically all Chamochelas. Occasionally, fermented and distilled agave juice aka tequila makes an appearance – always optional.
TIPS: Always add the beer last by pouring it from high above the glass to help the rest of the ingredients mix. Be careful to stop pouring before the beer reaches the salt rimmed glass edge – salt forms nucleation sites and causes the beer to fizz up excessively.