Bloody Mary, Michelada, Red Beer—What’s the Difference?

Don’t ever call a Red Beer a Michelada or there will be hell to pay.

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Bloody Marys, Micheladas, and Red Beer cocktails share the lure of being hangover cures, but each one tackles your recovery in its own special way. Red like the fire they put in your belly, these three drinks are often associated with each other or even mistaken for each other, but though some would call them triplets, they’re actually more like distant cousins.

What is a Bloody Mary?

It is believed that the Bloody Mary cocktail was first invented at a bar in Paris. A bartender at Harry’s Bar named Ferdinand Petiot is credited as the inventor and the recipe for the drink first appeared in a book from the bar’s owner called “Harry’s ABC of Cocktails” in 1921, reports PBS.

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A traditional Bloody Mary has in it, the drink contains seven main ingredients: vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, celery salt, Tabasco, and lemon juice. Surprisingly, the long list of garnishes such as olives, celery stalks, pickles, or basically anything that fits on a long toothpick that typically top this drink are not part of its original recipe.

What is a Michelada?

As with the invention of most things, there are multiple origin stories for the Michelada. One story, cites Daily Beast, is that the drink was invented some time in the 1970s by a civil engineer from San Luis Potosí named Michel Esper-Jorge. One day, Esper-Jorge walked into a tennis club hungover (as one does), and asked the waiter for a glass of ice, lime juice, some condiments, and a bottle of beer. When asked by the bartender what his concoction was, Esper-Jorge called it a Michelada.

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Another story goes back further to the 1940s and credits a Mexican general named Augusto Michel as the inventor of the drink, notes Urban Matter. The general was said to have enjoyed his beer with spicy salsa mixed in.

Whomever invented the drink, the key to understanding it is in the name. The word “helada” means frozen in Spanish, which is why an ice cold beer is the basis of the drink. Familia Kitchen writer MariCarmen Ortíz Conway explains that a true Michelada contains beer, lime, salt, and Petróleo. Petróleo is a combination sauce made from Worcestershire, Maggi, and Tabasco. Maggi is a dark liquid seasoning commonly used in Mexican dishes, some compare it to soy sauce.

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Nowadays people swap out the traditional Petróleo for clamato, a spicy tomato juice that is easier to find in grocery stores.

What is a Red Beer Cocktail?

First off, a red beer cocktail should not be confused with a red beer or red ale. Red ale on its own is a brewing style that comes from Europe, explains Craft Beer Club. A European red ale is brewed using roasted malts which give the drink a buttery flavor and help it achieve the reddish color.

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A red beer cocktail, on the other hand, contains only two ingredients—light beer and tomato juice, clarifies Vine Pair. Where the former two drinks have become widely known across the United States and internationally, red beer appears to be a mostly Midwestern beverage. The most important thing to remember is that any additions will immediately strip a red beer cocktail of its name—even just a drop of hot sauce makes this a Michelada, and the two should never be confused.

Appreciate and enjoy all red drinks that help get you through the hell that is a hangover, but remember they’re not all the same.

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