Margarita who? These days, all the cool kids order micheladas. A Chicago restaurateur stirs up the secrets to Mexican beer cocktails.

Imagine a refreshing cross between a bloody mary and a beer. That's a michelada. Well, one version, anyway. Edgar Castañeda, who dishes modern street food at two Taco Joint locations in Chicago, explains that the drink varies regionally, from a bare-bones lime-beer-salt formula in his native Mexico City to the spicier tomato-based quenchers found at resorts.

The key is the eyebrow-raising notion of serving beer on ice. (Mi chela helada is slang for "my frozen beer.") The recipe that follows is a simplified take on Edgar's TJ Red Michelada.

"It's easily adaptable," he advises. "Write down what you do, then add flavors next time, like orange juice or more hot sauce. At the end of the day, a good michelada is whatever tastes best to you." We'll drink to that.


1. The rim On a saucer, combine 2 teaspoons coarse salt, 1 teaspoon chili powder and several grinds of black pepper. Rub a lime wedge on a chilled pint glass rim to moisten. Dip in salt mixture.

Tip: It's classic to rim micheladas with a lime-chili seasoning blend called Tajín. (Think of it as Mexico's Lawry's.) Edgar prefers salt and pepper. We hacked a combo of the two ideas using familiar ingredients.

Tip: Freshly ground black pepper is Edgar's calling card: "I love the effervescence, and it makes it look homemade."

2. The base In the glass, stir together 1/2 cup chilled good-quality tomato juice, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon Maggi liquid seasoning, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Mexican hot sauce, and black pepper, along with a few ice cubes.

Tip: A staple across Central America, Maggi is a bottled condiment sold in the Latin aisle of big supermarkets. It's made of fermented wheat protein and packs a salty, meaty punch. If you can't find it, just use a few extra dashes of Worcestershire.

Tip: "I like Tabasco sometimes," Edgar explains, "but it has a little too much acid. Mexican hot sauces have a base with a little more chili, a little more balance." His fave? Valentina.

3. The beer Add more ice to the glass. Crack open a 12-ounce bottle of Mexican lager beer and pour it in. Stir gently or not at all-it's a personal choice. Garnish with a lime wedge. (Serve the rest of the bottle with the michelada for topping off while sipping, or use it for the next drink.)

Tip: "Truthfully," Edgar says, "Mexican beers are interchangeable with the exception of darker ones like Negra Modelo. I've done micheladas with a black lager or a porter, but if you're going for traditional, choose something light and refreshing."


BIg batch?

This recipe makes a single drink. For a party, multiply all the ingredients in Step 2 to make a cocktail base in a pitcher. Fill each rimmed, ice-filled glass a quarter to a third of the way with the base, then top with beer.