Tucson Michelada Challenge Coming to Downtown

August 5, 2015

Tafao (Proper) adds a bit of clamato juice to his michelada.

Tafao (Proper) adds a bit of clamato juice to his michelada.

by Liz Felix

Where there’s carne asada cooking and corridos playing, you can rest assure that you’ll find someone around the party preparing a michelada. If you’re not from the Southwest, you may not be familiar with the traditional Mexican “beer cocktail” but it’s been around the border region for years, gaining popularity across the nation and now, Tucson is calling out the best michelada makers to compete for the title of Best Michelada at the Tucson Michelada Challenge.

Call a michelada (or chelada) a cocktail in front of some people (my tios) and you’ll get some dirty looks and maybe a smack on the side of your head. Although it shares similarities to a Bloody Mary, the michelada’s main ingredient is lime juice, and lots of it.

There are many variations of the drink but the base ingredients are a chili rimmed glass, beer, lime juice, salt, and a bit of hot sauce. Add it all up and you’ve got yourself a simple drink with a perfect combination of sour and spice that’s perfect for cooling down or curing a mean hangover.

“Everyone would claim they made the best micheladas. My aunt, my sister, my dad. So I said, let’s let the public decide,” says Rob Betancourt, one of the creators of the michelada event.

The michelada at Elliott's has plenty of lime. A must for a perfect michelada.

The michelada at Elliott’s has plenty of lime. A must for a perfect michelada.

The Tucson Michelada Challenge will have over 30 bartenders going head-to-head for a shot at winning Best in Show and People’s Choice. The participating bartenders will be representing local Tucson businesses, including some Downtown favorites: Proper, Elliott’s on Congress, Playground, and Agustin Kitchen.

“The michelada is as important as menudo,” an observation Betancourt made while traveling across the Southwest. “It goes: menudo, tacos, micheladas.”

Betancourt says that he hopes to later open up the competition to contenders outside of Tucson but despite its expansion, Betancourt says, “the name will always remain the Tucson Michelada Challenge.”

Defending their titles from last year’s challenge, Monica Ortiz, winner of Best in Show, and Kristina Sanders, winner of People’s Choice are back, and they’ve got some players looking to take their spots this year. Among the challengers is Proper bartender, Tafao Faumuina.

“I’m excited to see what everyone else is going to bring,” says Faumuina. When it comes to his winning strategy, Faumuina says he’s sticking to the basics but will “incorporate new ingredients to enhance the traditional flavors.” Cora Scott, representing Elliott’s on Congress, and Ryan Clark from Agustin Kitchen will also be bringing the heat with their very own take on the spicy Mexican drink.

Proper's michelada is the perfect Summer drink.

Proper’s michelada is the perfect Summer drink.

The event will go down on August 15, 2015 at the Tucson Convention Center on Church Avenue from 2 p.m. to 6 .p.m.. Tickets are $22 in advance or $27 on the day of the event. The admission gets you a 3.5 oz tasting cup to sample over 30 different types of micheladas, free chips and salsa to cleanse the palate, and live music from local group Mariachi Pistoleros.

Sonoran dogs, tacos, combination plates and more will also be for sale at the event if you’re looking to pair your michelada with a meal. Your ticket also gets you a ballot where the judging skills you’ve been holding back since your sister-in-law told you about her new career choice, can finally come unleashed. Try the micheladas. Cast your vote. Have some fun.

For tickets and more information, visit TucsonMichelada.com or check out their Facebook page here for more updates.