Having had my first Mexican Michelada (pronounced Mee-chay-lah-dah), I will forever pine for this version of a quintessentially Canadian invented cocktail that the Mexicans have managed to elevate to new heights and flavours. The one I had at the El Malecón beach restaurant in Puerto Vallarta is a meal in itself and is really a cocktail and salad all in one. It literally took two hands to get the 1 litre drink to my mouth!
Before I deconstruct this delicious concoction, let’s revisit how the Caesar cocktail was developed. According to Wikipedia:
The Caesar was invented in 1969 by restaurant manager Walter Chell of the Calgary Inn (today the Westin Hotel) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He devised the cocktail after being tasked to create a signature drink for the Calgary Inn’s new Italian restaurant. He mixed vodka with clam and tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, and other spices, creating a drink similar to a Bloody Mary but with a uniquely spicy flavour.
Chell said his inspiration came from Italy. He recalled that in Venice, they served Spaghetti alle vongole, spaghetti with tomato sauce and clams. He reasoned that the mixture of clams and tomato sauce would make a good drink, and mashed clams to form a “nectar” that he mixed with other ingredients.
According to Chell’s granddaughter, his Italian ancestry led him to call the drink a “Caesar”. The longer name of “Bloody Caesar” is said to differentiate the drink from the Bloody Mary, but Chell said it was a regular patron at the bar who served as the inspiration. During the three months he spent working to perfect the drink, he had customers sample it and offer feedback. One regular customer, an Englishman, who often ordered the drink said one day “Walter, that’s a damn good bloody Caesar”. Chell said the drink was an immediate hit with the restaurant’s patrons, claiming it “took off like a rocket”. Within five years of its introduction, the Caesar had become Calgary’s most popular mixed drink.
The Mott’s company was independently developing Clamato, a mixture of clam and tomato juices, at the same time the Caesar was invented. Sales of Clamato were initially slow: Mott’s sold only 500 cases of Clamato in 1970, but sales consistently increased after the company’s distributors discovered Chell’s drink. By 1994, 70% of Mott’s Clamato sales in Canada were made to mix Caesars, while half of all Clamato sales were made in Western Canada. Motts claims that the Caesar is the most popular mixed drink in Canada, estimating that over 350 million Caesars are consumed every year.
The Mexican Michelada: Layer by Layer
The Michelada is made with beer (not vodka like it’s Canadian counterpart) and clamato juice on ice, and delicious spices. The top of the styrofoam lid serves as the platter for the “salad.” The only downer of this drink is the styrofoam cup, but I guess in order to build this masterpiece, that is the easiest vessel to construct this multi-layer drink. I say a version should be created using a beautiful glass with lid, but then it would likely be way too heavy to lift! Or, how about creating a special red cup for this? Would someone get on that please?
I didn’t know where to start but elected to take a sip first (it was fantastic and perfectly spiced), before digging into the goodies on top. Here we go, layer by layer:
Bottom layer: Round, thick slices of cucumber lined the bottom of the lid
2nd layer: Long sticks of Jicama (see reference below), layered cross ways
3rd layer: Long sticks of carrot, layered cross ways
Top layer: 5 or 6 beautiful big shrimp
The vegetables and shrimp were sprinkled with a delicious seasoning and I squeezed lime all over them. Really, I don’t know when I have enjoyed a cocktail so much. As a side note, in Mexico limones (limes) are used for everything, in place of lemons. In fact, it is hard to find a lemon in the stores.
Jicama: A Perfect, Low-Cal Veggie
Never tried jicama? Then you are missing out! It has long been one of my favorite veggies and I have been eating it for years.
Also known as yam bean, jicama (pronounced hee-kuh-muh) is a round, fleshy taproot vegetable of the bean family plants. Its underground starchy root is one of the popular edible tuber-vegetables grown in many parts of Central American, South Asian, Caribbean, and some Andean South American regions. It is crispy white, refreshing, slightly sweet tasting and can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of sweet as well as savory dishes. Some of the common names of yam bean are Mexican water chestnut and Mexican turnip. Best part about jicama? It is one of the very low-calorie root vegetables – carrying only 35 calories per 100 g. It’s high-quality phyto-nutrition profile comprises of dietary fiber, and antioxidants, in addition to small proportions of minerals, and vitamins.
Before this trip is over, I plan to go back to that restaurant and get the actual ingredients and seasonings used so stay tuned! Meanwhile, I must go in search of a Michelada as it is now happy hour (wink). Hale Caesar!