Traditionally, a Michelada means beer poured over ice with salt, lime and, if you’re in Oaxaca, a spicy sauce. But at Empellón Al Pastor in New York City, Alex Stupak is breaking the drink down and rebuilding it into 10 brilliant new cocktails.
As a pastry chef at WD-50, Stupak came up with inventive new desserts by stripping tried and true combinations down to basic flavor profiles and swapping in new ingredients that fit the descriptions. For example, instead of peanut butter and jelly, he would match black sesame with black currant or argan oil with passion fruit. He used the same technique to come up with Michelada variations.
Stupak took his basic requirements for the drink (acidity, salt or umami, spice and beer) and started mixing and matching. He swapped out lime for passion fruit, traded in mixed chiles for habanero and created the El Cuñado. He combined citrusy yuzu, umami-rich miso and spicy togarashi salt to make the Emoticon.
The same process helped guest Michelada makers Andy Ricker, Wylie Dufresne and Andrew Zimmern come up with their own takes. Ricker’s is the Thai–inspired Green Beer with tomatillo juice, naam jiim (a sweet green chile sauce), nori salt and Tecate. Dufresne was inspired by elote, Mexican corn on the cob covered with cheese and mayo, to make the Micheloté made with corn powder instead of salt, Malta Goya as the umami flavor, ponzu as the acidic component and Negra Modelo. And Zimmern took all of the classic Michelada flavors to the next level with his El Chambovaca: chipotle-spiked tomato juice, beef broth, reposado tequila and Tecate.
Stupak also drew inspiration from classic cocktails other than the Michelada: The Our Manhattan is made with rye, sweet vermouth, bitters, cherry salt and IPA. The Negronifico is simply a Negroni with Pacifico.
Stupak admits that these deviate from his own loose definition of a Michelada, but he argues that they do still belong on the menu. “They’re on ice and they contain beer,” he says. “So they are still the barest definition of a Michelada.” And with that assertion, Stupak just made Michelada a new cocktail category.