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EMPELLON micheladas
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz Michelada 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

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.

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The best micheladas

Claro
Photograph: Gabi Porter

Michelada at Claro

3 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Mexican Gowanus

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. 

Butter & Scotch michelada
Photograph: Courtesy Butter & Scotch

Michelada at Butter & Scotch

Restaurants Bakeries Crown Heights

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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EMPELLON micheladas
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Michelote at Empellón al Pastor

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.

Michelada at Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co
Photograph: Courtesy Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co

Michelada at Greenpoint Lobster & Lobster Co.

Restaurants Seafood Greenpoint

What better way is there to wash back an oyster-filled breakfast taco than with an ice-cold, lightly boozy michelada hit with hot sauce, lime and tomato juice? By garnishing that michelada with a house-smoked bivalve, that’s what. $10

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Kin Shop rama michelada
Photograph: Kin Shop

Rama michelada at Kin Shop

Restaurants Thai 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

La Contenta
Photograph: Matthew Well

Blackberry michelada at La Contenta

Restaurants Mexican Lower East Side

At the Lower East Side cocina, owner-bartender Alex Valencia rims this vibrant, fruit-heavy cup—sloshing with Negra Modelo, grapefruit juice and sweet blackberry puree—with zesty tajín seasoning, whose chile-powder bite curbs the dark-fruit tartness of the bramble berry. $8

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NoMad Bar michelada
Photograph: Courtesy NoMad Bar

Michelada Bloody at the Nomad

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

chipotle michelada at pearl & ash
Photograph: Alex Fleischman

Chipotle michelada at Pearl & Ash

Restaurants Contemporary American Nolita

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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