Atlas’ easy-drinking, lime-infused Chelada has been a great success since launching in Panama last year, but outside Latin America few will know about the traditional beverage that inspired this new brand

The origin of various drinks have been the subject of deliberation over the years, but few tales are as interesting as the authentic “cerveza preparada” (ready beer) – the Mexican-born chelada.

The most traditional version of the drink, upon which our Chelada is based, is a blend of light, pale beer, ice, lime juice and salt. However, this is only the beginning of the story.

Chela is a colloquial Latin-American word meaning blonde and is also synonymous for a light beer – as in France, where drinkers might be heard to order "une blonde”.

Chelada is likely to be a combination of chela helada, meaning "iced beer”.  Mi is the possessive, as in "my iced beer”, and therefore in some Mexican regions chelada and michelada are interchangeable.

The traditional chelada has Mexican roots, and was probably invented in the late 1940s – primarily because ice cubes were not common in Mexico before then – with two popular stories about likely origin leading the way.

The first claims the drink was invented by a man called Michel, who – it is said – would order a beer in his local bar with lime, salt and ice in a special goblet-shaped glass called a "chabela", with a straw, as if it were a beer lemonade. Other drinkers started asking for beer as "Michel's lemonade", with the name shortening over time to ‘michelada’.

The second tale claims the chelada was named in honour of Mexican general Augusto Michel, who reportedly liked to enhance his lager with chillies and lime.

Chelada recipes across Latin America are many and varied.  Even within Mexico the preparation will differ from region to region.

Some recipes call for salt in the beer, rather than just around the rim of the glass, while others use chilli powder. More adventurous drinkers use peppercorns, ginger or hot sauce; the spicy heat balanced with the refreshing beer and lime.

More recent adaptations have absorbed global flavours, including Worcestershire and chilli sauce (cubana), clam and tomato juice (clamato), and even naam jim (Thai sweet chilli dipping sauce).

Regardless of recipe, making the perfect chelada depends on adhering to traditional techniques and disciplines – experimentation is part of the very essence of the drink, and it is for friends and family to enjoy together.

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