As summer soldiers on, patio-seekers all over Tulsa continue the hunt for the perfect warm-weather cocktail. If this describes you, look no further than the humble Michelada. A cerveza preparade—you might call it a shandy—Micheladas date back to mid-century Mexico. Made with beer, Clamato, lime juice and a variety of chili-based sauces, these concoctions are refreshing, filling, and unlike Bloody Marys, they don’t taste like Spicy V8s mixed with booze.
The most common recipe contains:
- Clamato or a similar tomato-based drink
- A few dashes of hot sauce like Valentina or Cholula
- Lime juice
- Spices (black pepper or Tajin)
- Worcestershire sauce (optional and worth it)
- Ice (optional)
- Your favorite Mexican lager
Use a salt-rimmed mug or chabela glass, add half a lime, sauces to preference, some red juice, and top it off with beer. Eyeball everything and mix to taste. The beer-to-Clamato ratio is key and the biggest difference you’ll find from restaurant to restaurant. (Heirloom Rustic Ales offers a craft version, but we’ll get to that later.)
The name of the drink is a portmanteau of mi chela helada—translating to "my cold beer"—but the name has taken on a life of its own. If you’re a Pacifico-and-lime type of person who likes spicy food, this drink is for you. With my trusted designated driver by my side, I set out to map the Micheladas of Tulsa.
Calaveras Mexican Grill & Cancun International Restaurant
My journey began at Calaveras Mexican Grill in Kendall Whittier. Their Michelada is of the on-ice variety, spicier than most, and very beer-forward. If you’ve never had a Michelada, this description probably means nothing—so just go try one. For your sake and mine, an employee at Calaveras made some watering hole recommendations that pointed me in the right direction.
Just down the street I stopped at Cancun International Restaurant. Here, the owners were welcoming (as always) and offered us chips and salsa while we waited. They took the ingredients back into the kitchen and remerged with a mug of thick red liquid and a bottle of Modelo still 1/4 full. No ice this time. A remainder of beer on the side is common, and better in my opinion; the closer the beer to Clamato ratio, the more the flavors combine into something magical as the remaining beer is added.
We headed east, guided by the name "Crudoolandia" scrawled on a piece of paper—thanks to a Calaveras employee—and a rough location of 21st Street and Garnett Road.
We found Crudoolandia tucked between a McDonald’s and used car dealership at 1901 S. Garnett Rd. Not knowing what to expect, we pulled into a car wash-style garage bay where a woman was loading beers into a fridge.
I couldn’t believe my eyes: a drive-thru Micheladeria. A menu on the wall displayed many twists on the adult beverage and botanas (appetizers). Ingredients were translated for me. Though tempted, I passed on two $15 versions, and ordered the cheaper 32-ounce La Goolosa ("the appetizing thing"). I selected my beer, going for a large can of Modelo—just $1—while admiring rarer beer offerings, such as Bohemia and Carta Blanca.
Crudoolandia is a play on words. The folks at Calaveras said it means "hangover cure." Crudo/a means "raw" in Spanish and is slang for hungover, so crudoolandia is literally "hangover land."
My order was transmitted through a sliding-glass window and moments later materialized in a dumbwaiter style hole in a door.
I beheld a glorious sight: a large Styrofoam cup with a spicy salt rim, a stick of celery protruding, two shrimps on a skewer, several slices of cucumber, jicama (Mexican turnips, described to me as "fruit," with the texture of pear), ice, Clamato, lime, sauces—the works. There were only three fingers of room for beer on top. After paying I was handed my beer (sealed) and we drove off towards a semi-legal consumption site.
Crudoolandia, a clandestine institution with three more locations in OKC, has turned this drink into unrivaled art. If spicy tomato-beer isn’t your thing, their Chuvi Duvi features frozen fruit and Smirnoff Ice. The $15 Michelada includes coconut, carne seca (dried meat), and loads of shrimp in a 44-ounce cup. Others feature candy, pop rocks, Red Bull, and Topo Chico; or a classic chelada with just salt and lime. I’ve yet to try the botanas, but I know who’s catering my next party.
Heirloom Rustic Ales
Some time ago, I saw a curious beer offering on Heirloom’s Instagram page: Dressed Cavern Hymn. When I arrived to check it out, part-owner Jake Miller gave me the rundown and sneakily got me day-drunk. Cavern Hymn is their traditional style Kölsch. You wouldn’t think the German-style beer would work in a Michelada, but that’s the trick: Miller based his beer-cocktail on a "Dressed Hamms"—basically a Michelada made with Hamms.
Miller eyeballs his measurements and only offers this drink special sporadically. Featuring craft hot sauces and a sugar and salt rim with two kinds of paprika, they’re the only Tulsa brewery on the Michelada train. Take an Heirloom can home and experiment.
Visit Heirloom for the most unique, Crudoolandia for the finest, and support your local Mexican restaurants like Calveras and Cancun International by treating yourself to this classic set to become your official summer drink.