Memorial Day weekend is upon us! The official transition that signals the start of summer: longer days, warmer temperatures, and poolside drinks. It’s always a weekend which I bookmark each year expecting summer to stretch out in front of me—seemingly endless. But every single time, summer flies by, and we’re welcoming fall jackets in no time.
This year feels the same, though in the spirit of enjoying every bit of summer while it’s here, I think we should get right on that poolside drinks bit. Particularly, I think this michelada should be on your Memorial Day weekend list for several reasons.
First, the tomato juice aspect makes this baby a little bit like a bloody Mary. And if you’re doing this weekend right, that’s probably not a bad thing. Second, it’s a beer cocktail! I love beer cocktails because they are much better for drinking during the day. It’s not straight beer, so it’s not as filling, but it’s also not hard-liquor-based so that you can pleasantly slip into that happy day. As a final reason to convince you to try this cocktail out, I’m going to just put it out there. Clam Juice.
Yes, you read that title right. Clam juice.
A traditional michelada (also its bloody Mary counterpart, a bloody Caesar) is made with clam juice as a component. It may sound bizarre and a little disgusting, but it’s actually a wonderful thing!
Clam juice is not a juiced clam. So you can put your mental picture of a Vitamix away. It’s simply the broth collected from cooking clams. Think of it this way—when you get a bowl of mussels, using bread to mop up the broth at the bottom is usually the best part of the meal. Clam cooking liquid is just as flavorful! It’s briny and savory with a slight flavor of shellfish.
Ever been interested in how shellfish get so neat and orderly in the grocery store? Read my piece about a clam sorter here on Long Island!
This might still seem weird for drinking except that we’re using it to accompany tomato and beer. First up, the tomato. Remember all the savory characteristics of tomatoes? Well that savory quality plays really well with the salty, gentle fish flavor of clam juice. Bonus: we can use clamato! A tomato and clam juice drink with MSG added to really pump up the savory volume.
I know that MSG can be nerve-racking and controversial to see here, but it’s a natural ingredient. You can read more about recent studies surrounding its use in an article I wrote last year. I totally get if you’re uncomfortable, however, so you can always mix up your own clam juice and tomato juice. A common ratio is 60% tomato juice and 40% clam juice.
So now that we’ve covered the tomato side, let’s chat about the beer. That very subtle shellfish funk from the clam juice? Well that actually blends right into the beer’s fermented character, and it accentuates it as a background note as well! Mexican beers, commonly used in a michelada, are especially great for this. While light in flavor, they tend to taste just slightly more sour and tangier than the light American counterparts.
Clam juice = a great thing. Come on, I know you’re dying to try it! I used a classic Modelo, but I think the tequila Modelo (beer “aged’ in tequila barrels before bottling) would be fantastic in this application. I also paired this baby with a spicy and salty cucumber garnish to go with the overall flavor while keeping it fresh. Enjoy!
Micheladas for Two
¾ cup (adjust up to 1 cup with your liking) Clamato Juice, chilled
1 cup Mexican beer, such as Modelo, chilled
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
A couple dashes hot sauce
For serving (optional): Seedless cucumbers, coarse sea salt, paprika
- Place two glasses in the fridge to chill quickly.
- Combine the clamato juice, beer, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce together in a small pitcher or tall glass. Mix together. Taste and adjust to taste. Set aside
- If using, prepare the garnish. Mix together a tablespoon of sea salt and a teaspoon of paprika on a plate. Slice the cucumbers rather thickly (¼ inch or so)—do as I say and not as you see! Later on, the salt will draw the water out, so you’ll get wilty cucumbers if it’s not thick enough…which is what happened to one cuke slice. Slice a slit halfway through the cucumber so that we can eventually hang it on the glass.
- Take the glasses out of the fridge and use the remnants of a juiced lime wedge to wet the rims. Dip into the seasoning mix from step two and twist to cover the top of the rim.
- Fill the glasses halfway with ice. Dip the cucumbers, both sides, into the seasoning mix and hang on the glass rim.
- Divide the drink mix between the two glasses. Serve immediately and enjoy!