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four licuachelas with different color rims on a wooden table

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 love our food.

Latino food has a nostalgic feeling because, 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.

But no gathering is complete without a little tipple, right? And boy does Latin America deliver: we’ve got it all, from aguardíente and chicha to pulque and vino.

Whether it’s brewed, distilled or fermented, alcohol undoubtedly brings Latinos together. There’s even a book, Alcohol in Latin Americaexplaining how alcohol has become 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.

Mexico has also earnt its place as the birthplace of countless other beverages: tequila, mezcal, margaritas and Micheladas, to name but a few! And as if that weren’t enough, there’s a trendy new drink that’s lighting up social media: the Licuachela. De México para el mundo.

Humble Beginnings: The Mighty Michelada

A staggering 40% of Mexicans drink beer on the regular, which far surpasses the number of people imbibing other popular drinks such as tequila, wine or mezcal.

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, much like our food, we couldn’t leave beer alone and we soon started experimenting with it. And, just like that, Mexico’s most popular cocktail was born. Commonly referred to as the Mexican Bloody Mary, a Michelada is so much more than that.

Now of course, each household has its own preferred method. But most Michelada recipes contain a combination of Maggi sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, hot sauce (such as Cholula or Valentina sauce), and, of course, beer. The mixture is served in a glass with plenty of ice, a salted rim and, sometimes, Tajín.

The term ‘Michelada’ is a three-word-portmanteau, made up of: “mi” (my), “chela” (Mexican term for beer), and “ada” (shortened from helada, meaning freezing). Put them together, and you get a convenient shorthand for “My ice-cold beer”!

Mexican invention doesn’t stop there. Micheladas form the base of countless variations, some sweet, some savory. Most recently, Micheladas have inspired a new variety, which has been setting social media alight over the past couple of months. Enter, the Licuachela.


What is a Licuachela?

Licuachelas are the sticky, spicy, fantastically outrageous cousin of the traditional Mexican Michelada.

The usual Michelada recipe forms the base, it is then topped with chamoy sauce, sweet and sour gummies, spicy sweets and other candy. The name comes from the fluorescent blender cups they’re served in.

Each drink is as unique as the person who created it: some have glitter, some come in cups shaped like crayons or cartoon characters. Its both humble and Instagrammable all at once.

Who Invented the Licuachela?

Like many other popular types of Mexican food, Licuachelas were not born in a high-end restaurant, but in the streets. In Tepito, to be exact: a bustling and labyrinth-like barrio of Mexico City, packed with stalls and stands selling all manner of creative goods.

They started life by being served from a small open-air market stall and, thanks to social media, they shot to fame 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.

Many places now serve the drink. But, if you want to try an authentic Licuachuela, head to Tepito and their well-established bars like Doll Drinks and Bar Cinco. For a fully-immersive Licuachuela experience, try the stalls in street markets such as Las Nenas in La Lagunilla, and Doble SS Susy y Sara in Tepito.

By combining a veritable mixture of ingredients widely used in traditional Mexican food, such as limón and hot sauce, Licuachelas reflect the country’s inventiveness and unspeakable need to express itself through food.

What’s more, the Licuachela’s power stretches way beyond that of its fluorescent appearance. It’s transformed previously [something] Tepito into the new place-to-be.

One thing’s for sure: I can’t wait to see Mexico’s next gastronomic innovation. Watch this space.

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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