Mexican & Margaritas

The Wide World of Mexican Cocktails

¡Palomas, micheladas, sangritas, vampiros, los big shots y más!

By Robb Walsh June 30, 2014 Published in the July 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The extensive tequila selection at El Big Bad

Image: Kate LeSueur

You seldom see Mexicanos drinking margaritas. The macho way to drink tequila in Mexico is straight up with a side of sangrita (“a little blood” in Spanish), which Houstonians can find at Cuchara, where the spicy, refreshing, non-alcoholic chaser is made with orange and lime juices, hibicus, and spices. (The bright red color in other sangritas comes from pomegranate juice—not tomatoes.) 

El Big Bad is the place to drink a blood red Vampiro—the cocktail that combines silver tequila with the aforementioned sangrita in a tall glass over ice with citrus soda and lime wedges. The gastrocantina also serves a bright, refreshing Paloma cocktail made with plata tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime juice. 

Hugo’s has an ambitious cocktail program of complex mezcal, tequila, and sotol concoctions, but don’t overlook the traditional wine punch called sangria—made here with Merlot, fresh limes, oranges, and chopped pineapples spiked with El Presidente brandy.

The Vampiro from El Big Bad

Image: Kate LeSueur

Cyclone Anaya’s is famous for its diet cocktails, including the Weightless Mojito and Sinless Strawberry Mint Mojito—both made with Monin O’Free gourmet sugar-free syrup. Legend has it that the “face-away-from-the-bar-and-lean-over-backwards-so-the-bartender-can-mix-it-in-your-mouth margarita was invented at the original Cyclone Anaya’s, a rowdy Tex-Mex joint on Durham Drive. (We wonder if the idea of diet cocktails has the Mexican wrestler rolling over in his grave.)

There are so many variations on the beer cocktail called a michelada (“my cold beer,” in Spanish), you never know what you’re going to get when you order one. At Mexican seafood joints like Connie’s and Tampico, you get a beer in a mug with hot sauce and a liquid spice blend (made in-house) in the bottom, plus salt on the rim. You can also get a raw oyster in the glass if you like. 

La Fisheria ups the ante with “Los Big Shots,” made with dark beer and salsa and your choice of shrimp, clams, or oysters floating around in the mug. These drinks give new meaning to the term seafood cocktail—first you eat them, then you drink them. 

By the way, micheladas are easily made at home. Even easier is buying Tecate’s 16-ounce pre-made version at convenience stores. Not to be outdone, Budweiser sells two versions of its beer-and-Clamato “Chelada” in giant 24-ounce cans—one with regular Budweiser, one with Bud Light—the Tejano beer of choice.

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