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EMPELLON micheladas
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczMichelada at Empellon al Pastor

The best micheladas in NYC

A Cinco de Mayo staple, Mexico’s unsung beer cocktail is enjoying a resurgence in NYC bars and restaurants

Written by
Christina Izzo
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Walk into a New York bar and ask five bartenders for a michelada, and you’ll likely wind up with five entirely different drinks. That’s because micheladas (the confusing umbrella term for beer-based, lime-spritzed Mexican cocktails) are one of the most readily modified recipes in booze. Remove the tomato juice, and it’s a chelada; doctor it with clam stock, and it’s a clamato. Whatever you want to call it, the savory cooler is popping up across Gotham, with bars and New York restaurants stretching the traditions of the South of the Border staple.

RECOMMENDED: What to do for Cinco de Mayo in NYC

The best micheladas

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Gowanus
  • price 3 of 4

Let’s talk about Mex. In the city that’s supposed to have it all, finding authentic regional Mexican food is surprisingly difficult without schlepping deep into the Bronx or Queens. Enter T.J. Steele, the part-time Oaxacan resident and full-time chef who’s bringing these foreign flavors to a compact cocina that falls somewhere between off-the-beaten-path street food and a hipster Brooklyn locale. At first glance, Claro looks like the spot where all the cool kids hang. Everything is authentic, from the rustic clay plates and imported blue-and-white tiles adorning the bar to the extensive mezcal list and wood-fired comal (griddle), where you can see the cooks toasting masa tortillas made with heirloom corn, ground in-house. After eyeing your surroundings, you’re bound to end up fixated on Steele: He’s covered with tattoos inked by the same artist who drew the large mural on the wall of a naked woman being cooked in a cauldron by goats. The meal begins with bugs. To be clear, you won’t be eating creepy-crawlies of the Fear Factor variety, but grasshoppers do make a cameo in a vibrant spring salad of crisp vegetables. Ground up into a tangy dressing, the chapulines don’t add much flavor, but they offer you the opportunity to brag to your friends about your edible escapade with the popular Oaxacan ingredient. 

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Crown Heights
  • price 2 of 4

Flour-dusted duo Allison Kave and Keavy Blueher may have made names for themselves with their sweet bakery creations, but in between whipping up cupcakes and cookies, they offer savory sips like this textbook Mexican quaff, made with Naragansett and lime juice over ice, during brunch at their Crown Heights bar. $7

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • East Village
Alex Stupak’s shrine to spit-roasted pork pours 10 michelada varieties, from a Mexicali-based standard ($9) to a “loaded” version with chipotle-spiked tomato juice and beef broth ($12). But it’s Wylie Dufresne’s brainy elote-inspired riff that truly stuns—made with corn powder in place of salt, smooth Negra Modelo, ponzu for acidity and barley-rich Malta Goya for a hit of umami. $9.
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  • Restaurants
  • Greenwich Village
Harold Dieterle’s nouveau-Asian spot gives the michelada a Thai accent at every turn. Building on a base of Singha Thai lager, fish sauce subs in for Worcestershire and sriracha for vinegary Tabasco, traditional lime juice gets a jolt of sour-sweet calamansi lemon, and the salt rim comes peppered with crushed bird’s-eye chilies. $10
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  • Bars
  • Hotel bars
  • Flatiron

You can get a traditional brunchtime Bloody Mary at Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s acclaimed dining room inside the Nomad Hotel, or you can give your hair of the dog a Mexican twist with this lager-laced version, flavored with orange, lime and a piquant pinch of French chili-pepper powder, Piment d'Espelette$16

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Nolita
  • price 2 of 4
Wine may be the focus of Richard Kuo’s ambitious small-plates bar, but cocktails are no afterthought, like this well-balanced quaff of crisp, lightly hopped Modelo Especial, sweet tomato juice, the fermented funk of Worcestershire sauce and a smoky punch of chipotle pepper. $9
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