As the temperatures in Austin begin to steadily rise, the urge for a cold cocktail tends to increase in tandem. But after long summer nights, the headache creeps in the next morning, slowly sapping your will to live.
Enter the Michelada: a beer cocktail that is equal parts delicious and refreshing with the added benefit of being a “hangover cure.” So what exactly is in this miracle concoction?
Let’s start with what it’s not: a “bloody mary” beer. The biggest misconception with Micheladas in the U.S. is that they’re just beer mixed with ice and whatever bloody mary mix is lying around behind the bar (typically poured with a light Mexican beer). If you order one and the bartender comes back with a red drink, they ain’t doin’ it right.
Just as it is with Mexican food, the Tex-Mex version never quite holds up against the real thing. A Michelada done right is mixed with Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, a spicy pepper mix, salt, ice, and your favorite Mexican brew. There are slight variations to this, but the mix should always come out dark, and you should never need much of it.
The word Michelada can be roughly translated as “my cold brew,” mi meaning “my”, chela being Spanish slang for beer, and helada equating to “very cold.”
Others prefer a more elaborate backstory to how the name came about. Michel Esper of San Luis Potosi, Mexico was known to ask for his beer with lime, salt, ice and a straw, and poured in a special glass called a “chabela,” as if it were a lemonade. Michel was a regular at Club Deportivo Potosino and over time other members of the club would order his drink and ask for it as “Michel’s limonada.”
Over the years, the recipe has been tweaked and made spicier, but the foundation remains the same. It’s the Mexican version of a “summer shandy,” which was originally an English drink.
Where to Get the Best Micheladas in Austin
Before I actually order a Michelada, I always ask how the bar makes it. If bloody is used anywhere in the description, I’m out. And unfortunately for Austin, this tends to be the case in most places around town. Oh, and never ordera Michelada at Micheladas Cafe y Cantina, the restaurant next to the Convention Center. They are bloody and overpriced. If anything, go to Micheladas Cafe for bad Tex-Mex, not for their namesake drink.
That being said, there have been at least half a dozen places in Austin that do Micheladas the authentic way. Among them, a few really stand out. If you’re looking to try a Michelada done the right way, start here:
Hotel San Jose
The hotel in the South Congress district is typically known for their hip patio and chill vibe, but they’ve managed to craft some interesting cocktails as well. Their lack of a liquor license has inspired some inventive drinks that include a traditional Michelada. Ask for slightly more lime juice than they usually pour, and pair it with a Dos Equis.
1316 S Congress Ave.
Dos Batos Woodfired Tacos
This small restaurant is tucked away in a new shopping center across the street from The Goodnight in North Central Austin. The owner is originally from Monterrey, Mexico and brings a regional variation of the Michelada that uses Maggi sauce instead of soy. Order the addictive chips and queso and pair your Michelada with Indio beer.
2525 W Anderson Ln. #175
To say I was surprised by how good the Michelada is at Hopdoddy would be a severe understatement. Who would have thought a local burger joint would make an exquisite Michelada done in the traditional way, and with craft beer options no less!?
Hopdoddy is doing it the right way, even going so far as to debut a new bloody mary drink that features the traditional Michelada mix as its base. Try the burger, any burger. If you’re feeling crafty, pair it up with a local, light craft beer in your Michelada.
1400 S Congress Ave.
Undoubtedly, you can find a few hole-in-the-wall places on the Eastside that serve up an authentic Michelada (and if you do, please let me know). But the above list is a good place to get started if you want to see what you’re missing out on. Don’t put up with Tex-Mex Micheladas anymore, Austin. We deserve better.
Where can I find your favorite Michelada in Austin?