A concoction of beer and tomato juice doesn’t sound very appetizing. Does it?
I remember many years ago sitting in a bar in Michigan, and a guy who was just off of work was pouring a little can of tomato juice into a beer.
“Icky,” I thought.
“What’s it called,” I inquired.
“A poor man’s Bloody Mary,” I was told.
Not having any desire to try one. I just looked on with disbelief. What had I been missing in my short 22-year life span? That afternoon stuck with me, and I have since learned that the combination of beer and tomato juice goes by many names, depending on where you are.
Fast forward to Mexico, 45 years later. The beer and tomato juice concoction exists here as a Michelada. But, in Mexico they put their own twist on the drink. Instead of tomato juice, they use Clamato Juice, a mixture of tomato juice and clam juice.
“How in the world,” I ask myself, “did the Mexicans develop a taste for Clamato Juice?” I don’t know anyone who drinks it in the U.S. and only one person who used to. Somebody must drink the stuff, because Motts (of Apple Juice fame) or one of its predecessors has been making it for decades.
The only person I ever knew who was fond of Clamato Juice was my Dad. I never saw him drink it with beer, but he loved his bi-valves in any form, and was known to consume copious portions of fresh raw clams and oysters when available. In Wellfleet, Massachusetts at low tide, he would walk out on the flats and gather a slimy feast to down with his beer or martini.
I can still picture him holding a 3-inch long, recently shucked oyster he had harvested. He hoisted it over his open mouth, and let it slide down his throat. Last week I was walking along the shore of Lake Chapala watching the Pelicans fishing. The pouch below their beaks was translucent, and when they raised them, you could see the fish flapping inside just before it disappeared down the Pelican’s gullet. It reminded me of Dad.
Micheladas are very popular here. There are signs for them everywhere – at roadside stands, in the market, in storefronts, and in bars. The first time I actually saw someone dinking one was a friend, Brad, at the first CASA meeting I ever attended. There are many ways to make them, everyone has their own recipe.
What piqued my interest in trying one was when Bill, another guy I know, ordered a Michelada at Tom’s Bar. Ben, the bartender, made just like I would make a Bloody Mary (except for the beer and Clamato Juice). He added hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt and fresh lime juice to the Clamato, and then poured the fizzy beer into it. Some places even put chopped fresh veggies in it. Tasting a sip of Bill’s, it was actually pretty good.
Inspired, I went up the hill to El Torito Market and bought the ingredients I didn’t already have.
Micheladas have now become a regular late-afternoon treat, when I’m not enjoying a gin and tonic.
If he had ever had the chance to taste a Michelada, I think my Dad would have found a new use for the Clamato Juice he enjoyed. And it would have been the perfect accompaniment for washing down a slimy bi-valve!