“Una cerveza por favor” is usually the first thing most tourists request when they land in Mexico. Well, that is, right after they have ordered guacamole! While Mexico is not the beer making capital of the world, there are still many good beer choices in a variety of flavors. You might want a lighter beer such as Corona or Sol. Or maybe you prefer a lager such as Dos Equis. Dos Equis also has an amber option. Then of course, there is Modelo, Pacifico, and let us not forget Tecate. Victoria is also a great beer with a slight bitter taste which until recently was only available in Mexico. In fact, even now, it is only found in a few select American cities. Of course, to go along with your beer choice, you must have some salt and lime!! Now you really feel at home and relaxed on your Mexican beach. However, if you really want to feel like a local, next time you order a beer, ask for a chela! Chela is a popular slang term for beer in Mexico! In fact, instead of ordering margaritas for the next round – order some cheladas or micheladas. They taste just as refreshing on the beach as the margaritas and they are harder to find outside of Mexico.
A chelada is a mixture of lime juice, ice, beer, and salt on the rim of the glass. Usually when you order one, you receive a glass filled one-third with lime juice, ice, and the salt. Your beer is on the side for you to fill at your leisure and taste. You can have any beer that you like for your chelada. There is no incorrect choice. When I first moved to Mexico, I usually had Sol or Corona. But I ended up preferring Dos Equis and Victoria at the end. Also notice that the word chelada is a play on two words – chela and helada. Therefore, it literally translates to cold beer!!
A michelada is a little bit more complex. It also comes with a beer of your choice usually on the side. However, the inside concoction has many varieties. The usual suspects include lime juice, Tabasco or another type of hot sauce, Worcestshire sauce, soy sauce, powdered chilies, tomato juice or clamato juice and ice. Sometimes, you will get tamarindo wrapped around a stick in your michelada. Yummy!! Some micheladas come with shrimp similar to a shrimp cocktail but in liquid form so it’s like a meal and a drink all in one!!
The drink is a little spicy but oh so delicious!! Of course, you can doctor it up to make it more or less spicy depending on your personal flavor profile. Notice once again, that michelada is a makeup of three words – mi, chela, and helada. So michelada translates to my cold beer!! How cool is that?! Now if you are feeling very adventurous and really want to drink like a local, I have the drink for you. Forego your usual tequila shot with salt and lime, and try a bandera, literal meaning a flag!!
A bandera consists of three shot glasses lined up in a row. They should be in the following order: Lime Juice, white Tequila, Tomato juice or sometimes sangrita. This gives you the colors of the Mexican flag (green, white, red); hence, the name bandera! Gulp the shots quickly in the same order – Lime, Tequila and finally finish with the Tomato. Sometimes, people drink it in the reverse order because they would rather have the lime juice end their experience. But either way, it is amazing!! You can’t even taste the tequila! But you still get all the benefits of drinking tequila – warm fuzzies, smiles, and joy! You will never go back to just drinking a shot of tequila. Your whole world will be better, brighter and more colorful.
Every friend I introduced the bandera to felt the same way!! They were so grateful and appreciative to have this new wonderful drink concoction in their lives! So, the next time you find yourself in sunny Mexico, remember to order like a local. Look up at your masero and proudly say with a smile, “Una michelada porfa.” I promise you will be saying, “mmm, me gusta”, in no time at all!! Or ask for a bandera or a whole round of banderas for all of your friends. I promise all of you will be singing and laughing in no time at all. Paradise will become even more wonderful. And you will ask yourself how you ever survived before trying your first local beverage?! Salud!!