Tequila, anyone? Mexico is famous for a whole slew of delicious boozy beverages, and it can be daunting to figure out exactly what each one is. After all, Mexico produces every drop of tequila in the world, and brews up some of the most famous beers in the world, too. If you’ve been wondering things like “what is a michelada?” or you’re looking for some liquid inspiration for your next Mexican getaway, this post is for you. In this post, I’ll list a bunch of the most popular Mexican drinks, explain what exactly goes into each of them, and give you my honest opinion as to whether or not they’re worth your time.
To start, I should specify that this list is not at all a ranking, and I’m not putting one of the most important elements of Mexico’s culture and economy at the bottom of it. I’m just starting with the basics! Tequila is Mexico’s poster child when it comes to liquor. Every drop of true tequila produced in the world is made in one of 5 Mexican states, and mostly in and around the town of Tequila, Jalisco. How is Tequila made, you might ask? Tequila is the product of a long extraction and fermentation process of the juices and honeys from the blue agave plant. Whether you’re trying to take shots, make cocktails, or sip on a delicate glass, there is a tequila for everyone.
The Verdict: This isn’t even a question. Drink Tequila while you’re in Mexico.
Have you heard the explanation before about what makes champagne, champagne? Any sparkling wine produced outside of the French region of Champagne is not actually allowed to be called champagne. It’s only allowed to be sparkling wine, or whatever other non-champagne name the company wants to give it. The story is pretty much identical when it comes to tequila and mezcal. If it isn’t produced in the state of Jalisco or a very select few parts of a few other states, it has to be called mezcal.
Both are made of agave, but tequila has a very strict, preset procedure that needs to be followed all the time. Any deviation from that process, or from the locations that I mentioned, yields Mezcal. Don’t start thinking that mezcal is some sort of knock-off tequila, though! It’s far from that. Just like a bourbon and a scotch, they are very distinct, enjoyable things. Mezcal tends to be smokier than tequila.
The Verdict: If you like tequila, try mezcal. If you don’t like tequila, try mezcal.
The margarita is probably the most internationally famous drink in Mexico. This delicious, gulpable Mexican cocktail is made of a few simple ingredients that are both at the heart of Mexican culture and taste really, really good together. A classic margarita is made with just five ingredients: fresh lime juice, tequila, orange liqueur, salt, and ice. A traditional margarita is served “en las rocas,” or on the rocks, and the rim is covered in freshly ground rock salt. Margaritas are very simple and delicious, and you can order them either on the rocks or blended. Many places will offer flavored margaritas, where a flavored syrup is added to give the drink a special twist.
The Verdict: Let’s be real. You’ve already had one, but you know you want more.
The simplest way to explain the mezcalita is as the rebellious younger sibling of the margarita. This cocktail is prepared the exact same way as the margarita but with two not so subtle changes: the salt on the rim is switched out for Tajin, and the tequila is replaced with the ever-popular mezcal. Mezcalitas are a bit more of a sipping drink to me than margaritas are, largely due to the smokier nature of mezcal. I personally love a good mezcalita, and it is a fantastic drink to have with a meal. Just like the margarita, mezcalitas can be flavored, too.
The verdict: A must-try.
Up to this point, I haven’t really talked about anything out of the ordinary. Everyone has heard of tequila and margaritas, and mezcal and mezcalitas are just their edgier cousins. But don’t worry – here’s where it starts to get weird. Mexicans really love putting spicy and savory things in their drinks. As an American, this took a while for me to learn to like, as we make everything sweet!
A michelada is more of a concept than a set recipe. They can come in many different forms, but the common denominator is that they are a beer-based cocktail. Generally speaking, a michelada is going to be some combination of lime juice, salsa, and beer in a glass with Tajin around the rim. You’ll often find ones served with tabasco sauce, pepper, or any other slew of random things.
The Verdict: Absolutely disgusting but do it for the culture!
Wait, didn’t I just explain what a chelada was? No, my dear friend, I did not. If you’re looking for a cultural experience that doesn’t taste disgusting (sorry to any of my Mexican friends that read this), you should grab a chelada…not a michelada. Drop the mi! What is the difference between a michelada and a chelada?
A michelada is exactly what I described to you already. Salsas, lime, tajin, beer…an interesting combo, to say the least. A chelada is basically all of the good things about a michelada, minus the weird, confuse your palate things, like tabasco sauce. A chelada is just beer and lime juice in a glass with a salted rim instead of tajin. Cheladas are my personal favorite thing to drink in Mexico – at dinner, on the beach, at the bar…anywhere. They are so extremely refreshing and delicious. They put micheladas to shame.
My tip for you would be to ask for slightly less lime juice, or even to add a splash of orange juice. Some places squeeze an entire lime plantation into the glass and you’ll feel like you’re eating Sour Patch Kids. As long as the ratio is right, you’ll be in paradise.
The Verdict: Liquid Paradise.
Ok, back to the gross…unless you’re from the Midwest of the United States. I’ve heard that Midwestern Americans might like this one, considering they stereotypically love Bloody Mary’s! A clamato is basically a Mexican Bloody Mary. Clamatos are made very similarly to micheladas, except that the key ingredient is clamato juice, a Mexican brand of sweetened tomato juice. Other than the tomato juice, clamatos can include all of the same ingredients as micheladas. If you like micheladas or Bloody Mary’s – or both – then clamatos are for you. If not, I’d stay away. Clamatos are very salty and somehow are even worse than micheladas.
The Verdict: …No comment.
With the paloma, we revert back to normalcy and common sense. This delectable wonder is made of tequila or mezcal, lime, and grapefruit soda served on ice. Palomas are just as enjoyable as cheladas, and they make a great alternative for people who either don’t like or can’t drink beer. These can be found just about anywhere, as the popular Mexican brand “Squirt” grapefruit soda is all over the place. While extremely simple, the paloma is very good and is mild enough that even tequila-haters should enjoy it!
The Verdict: Nothing Iconic, but definitely worth trying if you can’t decide what to get.
All joking aside, every drink on this list is worth a try. While I am not a particular fan of micheladas or clamatos, many, many people are. That’s why they’re so popular, after all. I recommend you give everything a try and let me know what you think. Anyway, thanks for reading my post on the best alcoholic drinks to try in Mexico! I hope you enjoy each and every one of these on your next trip to Mexico. As always, remember to drink responsibly!