No matter the occasion, micheladas are a popular addition to beer drinking in Brownsville, all the more so because of the city’s close proximity to Mexico and and its well known cross-border cultural drift.
“They’re super refreshing in the summer if you’re out with friends. I like them because they have just the right amount of spice, you get to pick the beer and they’re great to sit down and have a conversation,” said Melissa Munoz, who was meeting her friend Sonja Hughes late one afternoon last week at the Library Bar on Washington Street in downtown Brownsville.
When informed that Monday would be National Michelada Day, the two said they would have to have a celebration. Munoz went so far as to say the michelada is her go-to drink when she doesn’t know what to order.
“It’s the first time I’ve had one here. They’re highly recommended,” she said.
Some say the term michelada comes from the contraction of the phrase “mi chela helada,” which means “my-cold beer” in Spanish. Other accounts say Michel Esper, a member of Club Deportivo Potosino in San Luis Potosi, drank his beers over ice with the glass of the rim salted, clamato juice and spices. Club members started to say “la limonada de Michel” to ask for the drink. The term evolved into michelada.
No matter. The drink is widely popular in Brownsville.
Library Bar owner Dacey Garza said on a good night she will serve about 30 micheladas. She rims the glass with lime juice and Tajin chili powder, adds clamato and lime juice, hot sauce and eight other spices.
“They’re a little bit spicy. I like mine extra spicy but it’s up to the customer,” she said.
The Library Bar will have its fourth anniversary next month, has stayed open throughout the pandemic, and its kitchen serves burgers, panchos, wings and more.
“It’s a hidden gem. A lot of people walk in and say they feel like they’re in downtown Austin,” she said.
Across town along the expressway frontage road just past the Tesla dealership, Leticia Ramirez has been selling micheladas as “La Guera Micheladas” since 2010. Before that she had convenience stores and has been in business for 22 years.
“Hapily, people like my micheladas, and they do compare. Business is going great. We never closed for the pandemic, not even one day,” she said.
Ramirez said her micheladas are as much a hangover cure as anything else.
“It’s like a ‘suero,’ drink a michelada and you’ll feel better. Sweet and salty, sugar and salt, everybody has their own recipe. It’s not for drinking, it’s for recovery purposes,” she said.
The menu on the wall at La Guera Micheladas advertises the establishment as “Your Hangover Lounge,” also selling shrimp cocktail, crab and shrimp salad and shrimp botana plates, along with various beer brands. She garnishes her micheladas with olives, slices of cucumber and large cocktail-style shrimp.
About 2004 people started telling Ramirez it was too dangerous to go to Matamoros because of the drug war. She started selling micheladas in her convenience stores, eventually opening La Guera Micheladas.
“It may look easy, but its hard,” keeping the business open 365 days a year, she said.
Lifelong resident Tony Zavaletta said not being able to go to Matamoros to drink micheladas is one of the lamentable aspects of life on the border, where people used to go to Mexico for all sorts of things, among them drinking, dining and buying lumber, hardware and prescription drugs, but now shy away.
An anthropologist and retired university professor, Zavaletta said the miichelada, like the margarita, was invented to attract American tourists to Mexico and has now moved across the border into the United States.
“It started in Central Mexico, San Luis Potosi, but every region has its claim to their version of the michelada,” Zavaletta said, adding that he personally prefers to drink his beer without the lime or the spices.
Nowdays you can even order michelada mix over the internet, which Daniel Ramirez has been doing the past several years as Daniel’s Almost Famous Micheladas via a Facebook page.
Ramirez said he formerly sold micheladas at his drive-thru at Paredes Line and Price roads and carried the business over to the internet.
“I’ve been doing it for awhile,” he said. “Especially in the Hispanic community, micheladas are very much in demand.”