Volcán Concepción ©Gretchen Healey
The Michelada is a savory cocktail from Mexico and is a refreshing and delicious way to beat the heat in Latin America. I was introduced to the Michelada a few years ago in Guatemala and quickly fell in love with its light, crisp and spicy-cool flavors. It paired well with food, but was just as yummy on its own. Where had this drink been all my life?
I’ve now sampled Micheladas in several destinations, but none stands out like the drink that Ben Slow crafted for me at a delicious spot called Cafe Campestre on Omatepe Island in Nicaragua. Unlike a lot of people pouring Micheladas for thirsty tourists, Ben doesn’t use a pre-made mix; instead, he takes the extra time to make one of the freshest cocktails you’ll ever taste. It fits right in with the menu of his organic farm-to-table restaurant. Moreover, one of the cocktail’s most important ingredients (tomatoes!) are sourced from his working 30 acre (12 hectare) farm just down the road.
Like me, Ben discovered the Michelada as a bit of a happy accident. It was love at first taste.
“This big ice cold glass full of red bubbling liquid was probably the best thing I’d tasted in Nicaragua. It smacked of ceviche and Bloody Mary’s, a savory cocktail, immensely quaffable, incredibly refreshing. Before I knew it, it was gone and I was on to my next marveling at how I’d never tried one before. That moment made me need it on our menu at Cafe Campestre, so I went and did my homework, bought up a heap of tomatoes, raided the farm for lemons and chilies, chilled a bunch of beers, got out my juicer and sea salt and started researching Michelada recipes.”
Cafe Campestre Michelada – ©Gretchen Healey
Thank goodness he stumbled across the drink, or I’d never have gotten the chance to taste such a sublime version. If you’d like to make this drink for yourself, here’s a recipe provided by Ben. Just be careful — it’s quite addicting!
Note: All liquid measures for the Michelada mix use a 1oz shot glass.
- 500 ml of fresh squeezed tomato juice (it makes a world of difference and is totally worth the trouble!)
- Tomato puree
- Lemon wedges
- 2 shots of tomato juice
- 1/2 shot of chicken or beef broth
- 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 shot of lemon juice (up to 1.5 depending on desired tartness)
- A pinch of chili or good dash of Tabasco
- A lot of ice
- 1 bottle of ice cold light beer
Add 2 teaspoons of tomato paste and a pinch of salt to a bowl, then mix to a thin paste with dashes of fresh tomato juice. Once you have the paste at the right consistency, add the rest of the tomato juice. Now you have juice for several Micheladas. The juice keeps for a day or so in the fridge.
For the broth, buy Maggi brand in liquid form if you can get your hands on it (the traditional Mexican additive) or make your own. Ben makes his own by using 6 cubes of bullion (or its equivalent seasoning) to 2 cups of boiling water, then cools the liquid and strains out any remaining solids. This will keep well in the fridge and you will have plenty for Micheladas, or leftovers can be used as the base for a soup or sauce. Chicken broth is the classic ingredient, but beef is tasty as well. Vegetarians could easily opt for a veggie broth substitute.
The glass is important. Narrow glasses or a glass with a narrow base won’t allow for proper mixing – the mix will settle to the bottom and make for a not-so-flavorful cocktail. In a tall, wide glass, wipe the rim with a wedge of lime and place mouth down on a small plate of salt to coat the edges. Turn the glass back upright and add the Michelada mix. Add plenty of ice to the glass and pour in the beer. Give this a good stir, pop a lemon wedge on the top for garnish and serve with a stirrer. If the bottle has any leftover beer, serve it along side so it can be added to the glass and mixed as the lucky recipient of the beverage sips away.
The drink is probably best served with your toes in the sand (or another summertime equivalent).
Casa del Bosque veranda – image courtesy Ben Slow
Farm-To-Bar Experience In Nicaragua
If you’d like to have a hands-on farm-to-cocktail experience, Ben’s organic farm now offers accommodation. Casa del Bosque has an elevated position overlooking Lake Nicaragua and both of Ometepe’s volcanoes (one of which is active!). There are three en-suite rooms with verandas, as well as a communal kitchen, living and dining area. Ben and staff will be offering culinary tours later this year that include visiting small agricultural operations, foraging for and preparing meals, and enjoying the fruits of that labor by an outdoor fire — Michelada in hand. Perhaps best of all, breakfast is included and free delivery is available from Cafe Campestre should you be too tired to cook.
Contributed by Gretchen Heale.