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Jun 30, 2006 07:16 AM

What is Chavela (Chabela) Cerveza preparada ... beer with clam juice

I’m sitting in a restaurant where neither customers nor staff speaks English. I’m only a few miles from Berkeley, Ca, for Dios sake.

On the special board under the molcajete is:

Chabela Cerveza preparada $7

So I’m guessing it is some sort of dish that has beer in it. There’s four items on the board. I wasn’t even understood when I said the name, pointed at the board ... no, no baja ... baja molcajete.

Finally the light comes on and the waitress points to the beer section. They are all in the $2- $3 dollar range. This stuff is seven bucks. Last try.

Cerveza? ... and I throw in a pantomime of drinking from a glass for good measure.

Si, si.

Hmmm ... Why so expensive ... and there was that enticing word preparada. Was this house-brewed hooch? Did that just mean a pitcher of beer? I passed and went with Bud. At home I Goggled.

Someone called it the poor man’s bloody Mary using beer and clamato. There are lots of variations on the web.

There seems to be a regular or preparada versions. From the many descriptions below I’m thinking that preparada is the one with shrimp.

Does this word have a meaning in Spanish? There were a lot of non-beer related hits.

And, how do you drink/eat this? Do you dunk the shrimp in the brew?

Where did it originate? I worked in Mexico City a year and never heard of it. A Monterey California newspaper said it was Guadalajaran.

The is the definition that appears the most:

1 part Clamato; 2 parts Beer; 1 squirt Lemon Juice; 3 dashes Tabasco Sauce; 2 drops Worchester Sauce.

Other versions:

White wine, beer, clamato, and lime juice in a salted mug, with 7 jumbo shrimp on the rim.

clamato and beer garnished with shrimp and crudite served with limes.

clamato, celery, wine, spices, carrots, lime, and citrus

corona beer,vodka,lemon,salt,chile

12 ounce corona, One 12 ounce Modelo (regular, not Negra), 6-8 ounces Clamato, Tapitio (to liking), ice, 2 shots of Tequila, Sqeeze 1/2 a lemon into mug. Stir, garnish with cooked prawns and a celery stick.

Here's the recipe from the Clamato site along with a video of the drink preparation.

*** Note: Edited July 4th, 2006 at 10 am to add link to Clamato website just above.

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  1. Whatever this is, all of these definitions sound scrumptious. I think you should go right back and order one.

    There's a new Guadalajaran place near me. I'll check to see if they have anything similar.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pat Hammond

      So I tried it. Very good. Much better than a Bloody Mary. Here's my report. The stuff about the chabela is about 8 sentences down.

      1. re: rworange

        Great posts, RW. Your meal sounds splendid. Haven't been able to check the availability of Chavela here, but it's on my ever-expanding list. Pat

    2. Actually it's all true. Clamato has been a popular drink all through out Mexico for years (I remember my Uncles from Mexico City, Yucatan and Sinaloa loving it as a kid). It claims to restore 'vigor'. Just like bloody recipes vary, so do recipes and names for this drink. In fact in L.A. there are bill boards touting this particular combo of beer and clamato...

      Here's an article about how Clamato has been really smart in targeting this core market....


      15 Replies
      1. re: Dommy

        This is interesting. Mexican seafood cocteles often use Clamato (or something like it) as the liquid along with diced onion, jalapeno bits(sometimes), chopped cucumber, and seafoods. Campechana is a combo coctele of seafoods. Often very good. Refreshing this time of year.

        1. re: Phoo D

          Yup! Clamato is used in a small amount, But the bulk of the sauce is Ketchup, yup... good old heinz... :)


          1. re: Dommy

            That is the funniest thing. Yesterday when I had my chabela, the next table ordered a seafood cocktail that was very impressive looking, piled high in a large, clear glass clamshell dish with slices of fresh avocado on top.

            Then the woman next to me grabs a bottle of Heinz catsup and practically empties it on top ... whacking the bottom to get the catsup out.

            My jaw dropped ... literally ... and the look of shock was so evident the woman turns and gives me a dirty look.

            So I smile and say, "It just looks so good" ... well, it did prior to the catsup. Crisis averted. She smiled back and said that it was.

            So good to know this is standard practice. Didn't remember this comment when I was in the restaurant.

            1. re: Dommy

              Not in Yuma. I've eaten a lot of seafood cocteles here and I don't detect a hint of ketchup.

              1. re: Phoo D

                Interesting... In most of my cocteles I've had in Mexico it's definatly had ketchup. Campechana not because technically it's a ceviche. How do they make their sauce? I wonder if it's a "Sonoran" varation on it...


                1. re: Phoo D

                  The seafood cocteles I'm accustomed to in my haunts have thinner tomato water. I was shocked the one time I was served one that was thick with ketchup. Now, ketchup and hot sauce are always available as condiments to add on your own.

                  1. re: Phoo D

                    The catsup was on the side at the restaurant near me. Can't tell you much about the sauce since I was only scanning the other tables and didn't try it. It seemed to be a thin tomato sauce. Then people would add Heinz to their taste.

                    1. re: Phoo D

                      Ah thanks Phoo and Melanie! Now it makes sense, yes, some lots of places do just give you the bottles to mix your own as everyone has their own preferences on the ratio... Like myself, I perfer it as an key flavor in the sauce, not ONLY as the sauce, my brother however, loves just SQUEEZING it in... :)


                2. re: Dommy

                  Thanks for that great link Dommy.

                  I knew clamato was popular in Mexico, just never the clamato/beer combo. I will forever associate our IT manager, Jorge, with clamato. He was a big fan. Poor guy, when we were training him in Montreal, he kept trying to order bloody Mary's with clamato ... no such luck usually.

                  Anyway, I tried the chabela or as the article says, Michelada. I guess my restaurant dropped the first two letters.

                  Great article, I'm especially impressed with this ...

                  "For one, he is firm in his belief that there is a Whole Foods-themed undercurrent now in place in Hispanic America's retail food experience. That is, what a chain like Whole Foods has done to revitalize food shopping in America, Rasinski believes Hispanic-focused regional grocery stores like Food City — with its in-store stages for mariachi music and unique product offerings — can do for the Hispanic grocery shopper."

                  That is so true. I really believe that the time is right for the Latino Ranch 99, so to speak. When I lived near Escondido, the El Tigre in that city was wildly popular. I miss it to this day.

                  On the other hand, it would be sad to see the passing of the corner mom and pops ... like the corner meat markets and groceries that once dotted America before the supermarket chains moved in.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Actually in So Cal, that age of the Hispanic Megalo Mart has come and is about to explode. These stores are HUGE, often have huge prepared food areas and full bakeries and the best thing for me, complete butcher services. The interesting thing is that it's highly regional and VERY competitive. You have the Vallarta Market is mostly situated in the Valley, Cardenas in the Inland Empire. Gonzalez in Orange County. Another HUGE gorilla in the room is Mexico's own Gigante (The Kroger of Mexico) making entry in the market with a DIRECT pipeline to the major Mexican Food manufacturers and very savvy business practices (I go to the one that they built in a historically Black neighorhood and they carry smoked ham hocks, turkey legs, hot links, ethnic hair products, etc...) There are other'discount' grocers like Top Valu, Max Foods that are catering to the Hispanic market as well.

                    While as you say, it will be sad to see the demise of Mom and Pops, these chains are finding the same challenges that Walmart has, which is finding locations to suit their business model (Which calls for BIG stores). They did fine as they took over stores from the rapidly consolidating general supermarket chains but since now that age is pretty much over, there is less real estate availble in their prime areas. Meaning, I STILL have to drive out 15 minutes to my Gigante living on the Westside. However, a small Oaxacan market just opened up around the corner from our place. :)

                    Anyway, incase you haven't caught my other posts, I used to work in the grocery business and now work in Hispanic marketing so these has been changes that I've watched with close interest and am excited to see how they end up developing...


                    1. re: Dommy

                      Is the Gigante in your area similar to the Mexico stores ... sort of a Wal-mart idea with both a supermarket and all-around store?

                      There was one just south of San Diego. I still have some outrageous earings from the DF Gigante. They were so bad they were good. Like chandeliers. At the time (late 90's), Gigante Mexico wasn't as satisfying a grocery experience as say an El Tigre.

                      1. re: rworange

                        No, Gigante USA is just a super market. I know exactly what you are talking about tho. Our store of choice in Mexico was actually Commercial Mexicana, I got the best note books from there... ;)

                        Another thing missing and sorely missed from the Mexican version is their expansive deli aisle with recados, moles, cheese and relishes all self serve and ready to sample. Sadly I don't think that model would work with out health codes. :/


                    2. re: rworange

                      Your IT manager should have ordered a Bloody Caesar in Montreal. It's a well-known Canadian cocktail that's essentially a bloody mary made with Clamato. Here's a recipe for a spicy version:


                    3. re: Dommy

                      I was going to put the link at the end of this post to a Wikipedia entry on clamato in my OP and bury it there just for reference purposes with an editing note ... who is really going to go back and read the OP? I added a link to the Clamato site at the very end and their version of the recipe.

                      However, the Wikipedia article is just too funny, as is the link to the Cincinatti post article at the end.

                      Mott's, the company that created clamato, tried to market it to the Anglo-American market and failed ... failed spectacularily ... fireworks spectacular.

                      The problem was what they call, "the clam barrier".

                      Anglo-Americans are grossed out by the thought of fish juice in a beverage ... think of the Bass-o-Matic mock-infomercial on Saturday Night Live ... put a whole bass in a blender, pour it in a glass and drink.

                      The Clamato advertising slogan didn't over come that ...""Great Taste. 99.9 percent Clam-Free."

                      Yeah, no ... don't even wave a clam NEAR my drink ... ick.

                      The reason it caught on with the Latino group was it fit with the palate of that cuisine ... think of all that cerviche and seafood/tomato combinations. Also as you mentioned, the aphrodisiac theory didn't hurt with all those Latin lovers.

                      It is also popular in Canada where the Bloody Ceasar was invented. Interesting that the original Bloody Ceasar was vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and mashed clams, with a celery stick garnish.

                      Now I want one of those with the real clams in it. I better check my lottery ticket to see if I won ... then I could hop on a plane to Canada for a Bloody Ceasar with real clams.

                      Anyway Mott has a few new REALLY delicisous-sounding drinks with clamato ... the first I GOTTA find

                      - Clamato Campestre, with roasted garlic, cilantro and Worcestershire sauce

                      - Clamato Energia, Clamato's version of Red Bull ... it gives you fins ... or given its aphrodisiac reputation it gives you ... never mind ... goodby Viagra, hello Clamato Energia ... how many cans of this stuff did I just sell?

                      You know, when clamato was pushing the juice, they were convinced that if Anglo-Americans would only try it, they'd like it ... and they are right ... I'm now a fan where prior to my chavela experience I would have never touched the stuff.

                      However, I'm a little horrified by the ingrediants listed in the first paragraph ... eh, it tastes good, who cares?

                      And again, if this topic interests you, I highly recommend the Cincinatti post article about clamato at the end.

                      Oh yeah, the article mentioned that Mott's discovered the Dominicans liked clamato mixed with beer ... perhaps the origin of this drink.


                      1. re: rworange

                        Not being one to let a good subject die, I feel no compunction at replying to this great thread almost two years after it was started.

                        I've been of the Anglo persuasion for a long time now, and I've always loved Clamato, and have even engaged in making and imbibing Bloody Ceasars from time to time with fresh clams according to a family recipe exported to the Southwest from New York at the end of the 19th century. I have no Canadian blood in me that I'm aware of.

                        First off, it's oysters that are supposed to put the spring in your love life, not clams.

                        Secondly, with the introduction of "Chelada" beer from Budweiser, (a horrible concoction by anyone's estimation), there is now a page on the "Michelada" on Wikipedia, replete with recipes from all over Mexico on regional ways of preparing the Michelada, or cerveza preparada:


                        Thanks for the great info!

                    4. I've usually seen it called a 'chelada' or 'michelada'.

                      Popular in Oaxaca, thought I've also had one in Playa del Carmen.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Scott V

                        Down in TJ, a Michelada will get you a beer with lots of lime juice and salt, nothing tomato or clamato related in it

                      2. i too have heard that called chelada and michelada.

                        there are some variations:

                        red beer, ie. beer topped off with some tomato juice, or clarita, beer topped off with grapefruit juice, are both popular in argentina. of course if you have had the main local beer (quilmes) you would understand it, that beer ain't very good!

                        1. In Playa del Carmen if I order a chelada, I get a glass with ice, a generous amount of fresh lime juice, a salted rim and my beer of choice. If I order a michelada, I get the jazzier spiced version - worchestire, hot sauce, etc. Maybe chavela/chabela describes the clamato version?