My friends Ryan and Amanda invited me to their wedding in Dripping Springs, Texas last month. The bride and groom are both into camping, so they rented out a campground deep in the gorgeous Texas country, and asked their friends to enjoy the wedding, party like maniacs, and camp out under the stars.
In preparation, I went to Spec’s Liquor in downtown Houston on a mission to buy a variety of canned beer six-packs to share with my old friends. Picked up everything I could find in cans. Southern Star Pine Belt, Karbach Hopadillo, Ska Modus Hoperandi, Oskar Blues Old Chub, New Belgium Shift, Brooklyn Lager, and Maui Big Swell IPA. This is why I always get invited to parties.
While shopping around, I came across a styrofoam cup labeled “Don Chelada Michelada Mix”. As you can see, it also reads “Beer Booster & Hangover Helper”.
A little bit of background here- I’m a michelada freak. I don’t care what kind of crappy beer goes into it, a michelada is always awesome, as long as it doesn’t come in a can. I’ve had the glorious opportunity to judge michelada (and bloody mary) contests years back, and I regularly make them at home.
Looking at this 24 ounce styrofoam cup, you can only imagine the conversation between the company’s owner and their graphic designer.
Owner: “I need something that represents Mexico. Something that will make this product appear to be ultimately authentic; something that will conjure images of colorful villas, the rich sounds of a mariachi, the fear of a bullfighter, the scent of fresh masa.”
Designer: “How about a Mexican?”
Owner: “That’s brilliant!”
Designer: “With a sombrero and a mustache.”
Owner: “We’re so glad to have you on board.”
As far as the statement “Beer Booster & Hangover Helper” goes, I can’t argue with it. Micheladas are great for both of these purposes.
I googled the product name and found their website. It’s kind of a mystery, really. It doesn’t say where they’re from, or who they are. The About Us page is blank. Everything is blank, except for the page where you can buy these cups. Their Twitter account has been taken down, but there a Facebook page. On the Facebook page, the owner holds internet auctions for cases of michelada kits.
To rate the Don Chelada on a level playing field with other micheladas, I would need to find a hangover. A wedding party at a campground would do the trick. After partying til 3 or 4 in the morning around a massive bonfire, after all the beer I brought was gone and the kegs were blown, I walked into the wilderness with a sleeping bag and called it a night. The next morning, with a bastard of a hangover, I removed the cellophane and peeled back the paper lid on the styrofoam cup.
I expected some kind of liquid packet inside, but the bottom 1/4 inch was full of a dried, red seasoning powder. And a rock.
Why is there a rock in the michelada mix? I took it out and looked at it. It weighed as much as a rock, and looked like a rock. I tasted it. Rock.
Maybe they put rocks in the lightweight cups to weigh them down, so they don’t topple from the counter if someone bumps into it?
“Maybe they know something I don’t”, I thought, choosing to drop the rock back into the cup and give it a try.
I was out of beer, so I opened some stranger’s icechest and scored their last two Negra Modelos (it’s a 24 ounce cup, so I had to take two.) In a cocktail bar, they moisten the rim of a glass in order to get the seasoning or salt to adhere. Since this is a dry styrofoam cup, they had to use some kind of adhesive to get the seasoning to stick. I carefully poured the cold beers into the cup. Most of the seasoning just floated to the top, even after a stir. The item I formerly thought was a rock floated too. I’m still confused about the floating gray rock.
The first sip was a mouthful of seasoning, but it wan’t hard to see that coming. It was terrible, but I took a few more swigs just to see if maybe it just needed to mix a little better. Nope.
A sleepy guy with red eyes and a ponytail walked up.
“Hey, you know what happened to my last two beers?”
“No, but you can have the rest of this michelada if you want.”
I walked away in classic “walk away from a massive explosion without flinching or turning around” action hero mode, with the correct knowledge that he would spray it out through his mouth and nose. None of us can be Bruce Willis, but we can all improvise by creating our own moments. Don’t look back.
When I got back into Houston, I had a few questions for Jay Francis, one of Houston’s most intrepid food adventurers, who also moonlights as a fortune teller on the Southwest side of town.
Stepping through the colorful beaded door curtains, I walked over to the stereo and turned the volume down on Ananda Shankar’s “Streets of Calcutta”, which was playing at full volume.
“Never interrupt a man in meditation”, Jay sternly warned, as he covered himself with a kimono.
Jay is the guy you call when you’ve got food questions. He’s been everywhere, he knows how to pronounce everything, and apparently can see into the future. He explained that the combination of tequila, lime and salt was originally initiated as a prescription for influenza. I was hoping to find the origin of the michelada, but we weren’t able to put it together. I didn’t notice them during my time in Mexico, and Jay didn’t see them either.
The birth of the michelada is a mystery. The word “michelada” can be broken down into three Spanish words, “mi chela helada”, which basically translates to “my ice cold beer”. This is one possibility behind the name. The almighty beverage has been traced back to a family from France that resided in Jalisco, Mexico, that held huge drunken mega-parties I wasn’t invited to and mixed up beer and salsa. The Michelada name has also been attributed to a General Augusto Michel who kicked ass in the Mexican Revolution, and commonly brought his soldiers to a cantina in San Luis Potosi to get them hammered on spicy beers. Also, there are a few Canadians who believe they invented it.
“Why the history lesson?”, you may ask. We study history so we don’t make the same mistake twice. The Don Chelada Michelada Kit is a mistake that should never be repeated. I want to find a historic building downtown and chisel this into the facade in Latin.
If the powdered michelada kit was this bad, what should a good michelada taste like? We’ll get to that later. The picture right there is the Budweiser & Clamato Chelada, next to a Kershaw Ken Onion Leek 1660CKST with a SpeedSafe ambidextrous assisted opening system. This is a great knife that has no business resting next to this wretched beer in a photograph, but if anyone offers you this beverage, the Leek is a highly recommended tool if you’d like to ventilate one of their lungs or puncture an internal organ or two.
Call me crazy, but I didn’t expect this beverage to be terrible.
It pours an unappealing orange-pinkish color, and it smells awful. For a more vivid description of the taste of this beer, AV Club did a great job. I’m not going to even explain the taste of this beer, because I really don’t want to revisit the experience. It really is that bad. If someone tells you they enjoy the Budweiser & Clamato Chelada, they are simply lying to you. Here’s another review of this revolting fluid by some psycho named Aaron Goldfarb. Knock yourself out.
The traditional michelada is an outstanding daytime beverage that definitely shouldn’t come in a gluey styrofoam cup or come out of a can. If you’ve tasted one of these monstrosities (or if you read one of the above reviews), don’t let this dissuade you from the magnificence of the real thing.
My favorite michelada comes from a mix that can only be found at Connie’s Seafood on Airline. You can pick up a bottle of it for $5. Drop a spoonful and a half into the bottom of a glass with a salted rim, and fill it with an ordinary beer and a squeeze of fresh lime. Some people prefer it with ice. If you have a favorite michelada recipe, or a favorite place to buy micheladas, please share it!
Commenter “Moe” explained the gray rock, and claims it is a “saladito”, or dried plum. (see comments below.) Not to alarm anyone, but there’s an FDA warning against imported saladitos dating back to 2009, citing that they contain lead. How lead gets into dried plums is anyone’s guess. To be fair, if we all went by FDA’s rules, food would be pretty boring.