…from the Perspectives’ Happy Hour Bar
How you doin’? On board the old Pacific Princess our Mexican housekeeping staff used to relax after work with a Chavela Cocktail—a popular Mexican cerveza prepared with Modelo lager.
Chavelas originated in Mexico in the 1940s, one of many variations on a method of beer drinking known as cerveza preparada. Literally meaning "prepared beer," cerveza preparada refers to beer mixed with juices and spices, often savory, for a flavorful reimagining. Bar owners may bank on cerveza preparada to make a limited beer supply stretch a bit further, while bartenders count on it to make beer drinking more reasonable by diluting the alcohol content and changing up the flavors.
Chavela, like a bloody Mary, is also known as a hair-of-the-dog hangover helper—a smaller measure of alcohol that's sipped to ease the pain of overindulgence. For these reasons, you'll often see Chavelas with happy hour pricing at Sunday brunch, but they're refreshing any time and any day.
There's a long tradition of similar beer cocktails in the U.S. The Shandy, for instance, is a type of cerveza preparada that mixes two parts beer with one part carbonated lemonade. Swap the lemonade for a citrusy soda like 7-UP, and you'll have a fizzy, German-style Radler. Then there's the Boilermaker, in which a shot of whiskey is dropped into a pint of beer and downed in a few heroic belts. The Red Eye lobs a jigger of tomato juice into a glass of beer for a hangover cure many in Europe swear by.
At the heart of every Chavela is lager, light-colored and light-bodied. While draft is preferred, cheap beer in a simple style is the goal. Like with a mimosa: Why pay for top-shelf bubbly when bottom-shelf will suffice? With everything else going on in your Chavela, delicate flavors and nuanced styles will be overpowered anyway.
The combo of carbonation from the beer and tart lime juice lifts and brightens every Chavela. Some bartenders prefer lemon juice to lime—in Spanish, "limón" is often used interchangeably to refer to both fruits, leading to some differing tastes—but there's no wrong choice. A good bartender won't lead you astray.
The best Chavela is served on the rocks. That battle between the icy-cool liquid and the warmth of the spices creates an invigorating mouthfeel. If your bartender were to stop here—with just beer, lime juice and ice—you'd have what's called a Chelada but let them keep at it for a real Chavela.
Garlicky Tapatío and smoky Cholula (my favorite) are great hot sauces for making Chavela, though any brand will ably stand in. Worcestershire sauce is another power player in the cocktail, packing the bracing umami of anchovies and the bite of tamarind and vinegar, mellowed by the sweetness of molasses. The hot sauce and Worcestershire each build on the complexity of the Clamato and are what impart so much of a Chavela's tanginess.
Clamato is a polarizing juice that tastes much like tomato juice, only amped up with a salty sweetness of the sea. Onion, celery seed, garlic and vinegar add a savory depth of flavor that tomato juice alone would lack. The clam broth adds a briny bite and a splash of deep-sea funk that plays so well with the tomato base. Sure, Chavela would be serviceable with simple tomato juice, but most bartenders will agree Clamato truly makes for the best version.
Chavela is served in a glass rimmed with lime juice, salt and Tajin Clásico—a Latin American kitchen shaker staple that blends mild chiles, lime and sea salt. Lime, salt and Tajin are traditional.
So, sub in a Chavela instead of a Margarita (sorry, Jimmy Buffett) for your next NFL tailgate or Taco Tuesday and swap out your Sunday brunch bloody Mary for a smoother, spicier spin for a Chavela.
Prep time: 2 minutes
Yield: 1 cocktail
1 lime wedge
1 teaspoon Tajin spice (to rim glass)
3 ounces Clamato Juice
10 to 12 ounces+ Mexican lager (brewed in the style of pilsner—I prefer Modelo)
5-6 shakes hot sauce (I prefer Cholula Hot Sauce)
ChefSecret: Take it up a notch by adding an optional 1-1/2 ounces tequila blanco or reposado. You can also serve the optional tequila separately in a shot glass.
Quip of the Day: “24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.”
Do you have a question or comment? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. All recipes and cooking tips are posted on our website https://www.perspectives-la.com/covid-19-survival-guide .
To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind. Take a breath and count your blessings, and if you have a little extra to share with others, please consider donating to Feeding America.
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©Perspectives/The Consulting Group, LLC, 2022
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