Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Michelada or chelada, what’s the difference?

Micheladas and cheladas are both popular beer cocktails — but what’s the difference and which one should you order?

In Mexico, it is common to play with words and sounds, creating new terms to refer to something that previously had an official designation. This linguistic creativity also extends to drinks, and there are various regional terms used to refer to beer, such as chela, cheve (more common in the north of Mexico), cheva (in Michoacán) or quigua (Veracruz).

A classic Michelada served with a slice of lemon. (Cesar Cabrera/Unsplash)

As you may have guessed, the words “michelada” and “chelada” are derived from “chela” and refer to a mixture of beer and other ingredients. Regarding the word “michelada,” sources such as Guido Gómez de Silva’s Short Dictionary of Mexican Idioms and the Real Academia Española (RAE) agree that its roots are in a Mayan word “chel,” which was used to describe white and blond people. Later, the word “chela” was specifically used to refer to a blond woman with blue eyes. Over time, “chela” came to be associated with the blond appearance of light beer.

To make things more complicated though, the ingredients in a “chela” and “michelada” vary from region to region in Mexico! Don’t worry though, we have you covered with our guide to exactly what to order, depending on where you are in Mexico.

CDMX and México state

Michelada

In Mexico City and surrounding areas, a michelada is a beer mixed with lemon and salt. The glass is usually completely chilled, and the salt is placed on the rim of the glass (this salted rim is called escarchado).

Chelada

The chelada in these regions is more elaborate. The classic chelada is mixed with salt, lemon, Clamato (a concentrated tomato juice with sugar, spices, dried clam broth, and monosodium glutamate), and sometimes Worcestershire sauce and Maggi seasoning. The rim of the glass is garnished with chile powder and sometimes spicy chamoy sauce.

Other Mexican states

The rest of the country differs from Mexico City and its surrounding areas. Here is the most common way to order these drinks in most of Mexico:

Michelada

In many places, a michelada includes a variety of sauces: Clamato, salt, lemon, and often Worcestershire and Maggi sauces.

Chelada 

A classic (outside of Mexico City) Chelada with lemon juice, rather than a slice. (Addison Berry/Flickr)

Far from the capital, a chelada is a beer mixed with lemon and salt. The salt is placed on the rim of the glass (the escarchado).

The great variety of micheladas

Over time, the variety of micheladas has become quite impressive. Some may find it odd, while others may find it absolutely delicious. 

Here are some options for micheladas from different regions of the country.

Camaronchela: Cooked shrimp, cucumber, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, Maggi seasoning, and lime juice in a glass rimmed with chili powder.

Pichachelada: Served in a pineapple and accompanied by pineapple slices, liquid chamoy, chili powder, and tamarind candy with chili.

Michelada endiablada:  Lime juice, salt, Tabasco sauce, and tequila in a glass rimmed with salt and chili powder.

Gomichela: An unholy union of beer and candy that is rumored to instantly induce diabetes in anyone who attempts to consume it.

The gomichela. Perfect for those with the palate of a young child, but an unquenchable thirst for beer all at the same time.(Bebidas y Cocteleria Chimal)

Chamochela: Maggi sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, and liquid chamoy at the bottom of a glass rimmed with liquid chamoy and chili powder.

Michelada campechana: Clamato, Worcestershire sauce, Valentina sauce, Maggi seasoning, chili powder, cooked shrimp, olives, cucumber, and tamarind candies.

What other types of micheladas have you seen in your area?

Ana Paula de la Torre is a Mexican journalist and collaborator for various outlets including Milenio, Animal Político, Vice, Newsweek en Español, Televisa and Mexico News Daily.

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