Back in 2004, I discovered the Michelada down in Baja California. Not on any menu, just by my inquisitive nature noticing Clamato stationed across the aisle from the native Mexican beers. It took three or four yearly visits for me to work up the courage to ask why, and one store clerk broke down the basic Baja beachside michelada:
“Drink the neck of a Pacifico in one big gulp, top it off with Clamato, add a few dashes of Tapatio, and squeeze in some lime…salud!…Michelada” said the clerk.
From that day on, we found the perfect beach hangover cure, and my love for the drink grew until it recently hit the crossroads of my lust for great beer and tasty cocktails.
One can certainly argue that a Michelada needs a cheap Mexican lager as the base ingredient, and I’ll let history pave the way for my current favorite version: the addition of the German-smoked lager as its base. You see, lager brewing technique was brought to Mexico back in the 1860’s with the Austrian monarch of the second Mexican Empire, Maximilian I. Adding a German beer to this classic is a sort of like a “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” throwback to the monarch himself. Mexican lager to this day is primarily a mass-produced version of the Vienna lager, brought over years before.
The Aecht Schlenkerla brewery in Bamburg, Germany is famous for its smoked beers. They taste somewhat like a campfire, and their Märzen, Urbock, Helles, and Doppelbock have various levels ofsmoky phenols, alcohol levels, and wood-smoke character. The oak-smoked Doppelbock at 8 percent ABV is my choice for the drink, which adds the perfect bit of sweet smoky character to this simple cocktail, and what ends up in the glass is somewhat mindblowing. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
The idea of adding a smoked beer isn’t far-fetched, having had many bloody mary drinks with smokey Mezcal, a strip of bacon garnish, bacon salt rim, or perhaps dashes of Worcestershire and liquid smoke. This version, the beer brings half of the flavor, the Limon Clamato brings the other. Rim the glass with lime and Tajin, and the drink needs nothing extra.