Our (New) Cold Beer

The michelada comes to Capitol Hill.

By Brad Thomas Parsons May 22, 2009 Published in the June 2009 issue of Seattle Met

Old and new: Barrio’s two tasty takes on Mexican beer cocktails.

IF THE BEER COCKTAIL becomes the breakout beverage of the summer here in Seattle, Casey Robison will be the man responsible. He’s the bar manager at Barrio, the Latin-inspired restaurant on Capitol Hill (a Bellevue outpost will open in September). There, behind a serpentine bar illuminated by the glow of hundreds of fat pillar candles, Robison and his crew concoct the cervezas preparadas called micheladas. (The name, roughly translated, means “my cold beer.”)

The michelada typically features a lager-style beer in a salt-rimmed glass with a solid squeeze of fresh lime, and sometimes includes hot sauce and a dash or two of Worcestershire or Maggi seasoning. You’ll find two versions of the Mexican mixers at Barrio (1420 12th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-566-8105; www.barriorestaurant.com), each concocted with housemade sangritas—citrus-, tomato-, and pepper-based blends that are the conventional accompaniment to a glass of sipping tequila. Robison’s Traditional michelada keeps it simple with a bottle of Sol beer poured over lime juice and a peppery sangrita colorado that gives the drink a rusty blush. It’s salty and satisfying and extremely refreshing. Carta Blanca is the beer of choice for the signature Barrio Michelada. “It was an experiment that turned into one of my favorite drinks,” says Robison. His sangrita verde, a sweet and spicy mix of jalapeño, tomatillo, citrus, onion, and honey, forms the base, making it a much more savory affair than most micheladas—more akin to a beer Bloody Mary—with a dance of spice that starts at the roof of your mouth then settles in on your lips. The beer bubbles up with a club soda–like effervescence that aids in keeping things cool. Be sure to give the Barrio Michelada an occasional swirl with your straw to prevent all that piquant goodness from settling at the bottom of your glass.

Both cocktails come rimmed with Mexican sea salt, and a few cranks of hand-cracked black pepper are added right over the glass. A lime garnish finishes off the Traditional, while the Barrio Michelada comes with a slice of cucumber. Robison keeps his beer cocktails cool with dense, one-inch blocks of ice made from a Kold-Draft system, one of only two such ice machines in town. If you plucked one of these slow-melting cubes from your drink just after it arrived and set it on your plate it still might be there, barely breaking a sweat, by the time you settle the check.

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