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licuachelas mexico city

Licuachela: Mexico City’s viral drink born on the streets

The sweet twist on the michelada is setting social media alight.

It’s no secret that we Latinos value our food.

Latino food has a nostalgic feeling because, in addition to being made with recipes that are passed from generation to generation, our food transports us back to the good times we have spent with friends and family.

However, sharing food is not the only way we like to make new memories with our loved ones. Many of us also enjoy something a little alcoholic, from aguardíente and chicha to pulque and vino.

Regardless of whether it’s distilled or fermented, alcohol undoubtedly brings Latinos together. There’s even a book, Alcohol in Latin America, which explains why alcohol has developed such an intrinsic social component in Latino cultures.

In Mexico, beer, wine, and aguas frescas are just some of the most common drinks you’ll always find at parties, from quinceañeras to weddings.

Moreover, Mexico is the birthplace of countless other beverages, such as tequila, margaritas, micheladas, and rompope. And as if this wasn’t enough, there’s a trendy new drink that social media can’t stop talking about: the licuachela. De México para el mundo.

Chela: The almighty drink loved by Mexicans

Cerveza – or chela as it’s most commonly called – is the number-one alcoholic beverage in Mexico. According to Statista, approximately four out of ten Mexicans drink beer regularly, surpassing other popular drinks such as tequila, wine, and whisky.

Although beer was not invented in Mexico, it gained popularity after German and Austrian immigrants founded the first breweries in the country during the 19th century. Since then, it has become Mexicans’ preferred drink at carnitas asadas, soccer games, parties, and pretty much any other social gathering.

But just like with our food, we couldn’t leave beer alone and started experimenting with it. That’s how one of the most popular Mexican cocktails came to be. Although they’re commonly referred to as Mexican Bloody Marys, micheladas are much more than that.

Although there is more than just one way to prepare a michelada, most recipes contain a combination of Maggi sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, hot sauce (such as Cholula or Valentina sauce), and, of course, beer. They are usually served in a glass with plenty of ice and a rim covered in salt and, sometimes, Tajín.

The term michelada comes from the collision of three words: “mi” for mine, “chela”, and “ada” for helada or cold. So, all in all, it could be roughly translated as “my cold beer”!

Micheladas are not only a popular drink among Mexicans but are also the source of inspiration for many other cocktails, from rotochelas to gomichelas.

Yet most recently, micheladas have inspired a new variety, which has been setting social media alight over the past couple of months. Enter, the licuachela.

How licuachelas were born

So what is a licuachela? Essentially, licuachelas are another take on the traditional michelada.

These beer-based cocktails are made with a mix of beer and salsas (such as Maggi, Valentina, and Worcestershire sauce), topped with chamoy sauce, sweet and sour gummies, and other candy. Their name comes from the fluorescent blender cups they’re served in.

Licuachelas were invented in Tepito, one of Mexico City’s most iconic neighborhoods which is known for its creativity.

Yet like many other popular types of Mexican food, licuachelas were not born in a high-end restaurant, but rather in the streets.

They started life by being served in a small stall at a tianguis and, thanks to social media, became increasingly popular among the city’s residents. Even some celebrities, like Stranger Things cast members Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton, have tried licuachelas while visiting Mexico City.

Where to try a licuachela

Since bursting onto the scene last year, licuachelas have caught on across the whole of Mexico City.

Several places now serve the drink, from well-established bars like Doll Drinks and Bar Cinco to stalls in street markets such as Las Nenas in La Lagunilla and Doble SS Susy y Sara in Tepito.

By combining various ingredients widely used in traditional Mexican food, such as lemon juice and hot sauce, licuachelas speak to the country’s inventiveness and ability to express itself through food.

For centuries, Mexicans have transformed the ingredients they have to hand into world-renowned dishes, from guacamole to enchiladas.

Although licuachela may not be on quite the same level, it shows that innovation in gastronomy is still an important driving force and continues to shape the Mexican identity.

Astrid Longi

Astrid is a freelance writer based in Mexico. She has written for a number of high-profile publications, including El Heraldo de México, and began writing for Orgullo Latino in 2022. Her areas of expertise include Latino food and culture.

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