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On a neighborhood back street, hemmed in by cars on both sides, sits a house-turned-secret dance club, a girl selling Maruchan soup-in-a-cup under a pop-up tent, and La Chubechada – a tiny storefront with a cutout window just big enough for Maria Guadalupe to poke her head out and take your order. When your drink comes up and she hollers out your name, you better be quick on your feet to go pick it up.

For tourists venturing out of the center of Mexico City, La Chubechada feels far from the trendy spotlight and more than a little intimidating, but upon arrival the place hums with a neighborhood vibe – kids hanging out and getting tipsy on the sidewalk with their friends, locals stopping by to say hello. Oh, and owner Raúl Raya’s mom is taking the orders.

Three years ago Raya and his crew at Chubechada – all family members – started selling the basics out of the “to-go” window at their convenience store. Raya, who doesn’t drink himself, didn’t even know which beer would sell the fastest until a friend’s aunt with experience in the convenience store game clued him in. A few of his cousins (including one named Pollo, “Chicken” in English) took a mixology class in which they learned to make cocktails like they do in Mexico City’s late night clubs – super sweet and alcoholic.

The crew gained some unexpected fame when a Netflix series called La Divina Gula (“Heavenly Bites”), dedicated to the most ingenious – and sometimes extreme – of Mexican gastronomy, featured them on their first episode all about micheladas. For the uninitiated, the Mexican michelada can consist of many things but is, in its simplest form, a big cup of beer with something salty or sweet around the rim. Usually there are also a few extras mixed into the beer – think lime juice, Maggi sauce, Clamato juice or salt. But micheladas have expanded far beyond the original simplicity of a salted rim and a little lime in the beer. Enter La Chubechada.

La Chubechada is a mecca for those who like their drinks big and like them sweet, and the options are endless – a michelada with gooey strawberry chamoy and spicy Miguelito chile powder around the edge, a “mojito” with mixed berries and rum, along with crushed Takis – a spicy Mexican snack a bit like Cheetos – around the rim, or the classic “Chubechada,” a mix of vodka, beer, and tamarind soda that will knock you off your feet.

Everything is tooth-achingly sweet. A girl orders a liquechela – which is a michelada in a plastic blender cup – and it comes with sweet and sour gummy candy hanging from the edge like a shrimp cocktail. A tall can of Victoria beer is covered in sweet, sticky goo and sweetened sesame seeds, with a sour worm sitting on the rim alongside a wedge of lime.

The chamoy paste, sometimes called escarchado or pulpa para escarchar in Mexico, is akin to jam, but thicker, sweeter, a kind of edible glue draped around the edges of a glass, much as the lime juice before you add the salt to a margarita rim. This sweet gooey substance is then rolled in spicy-sweet powders or in the case of that mojito we mentioned, crushed up chips.

These are flavor combinations that Mexican kids learn to love at an early age – tangy, sweet, salty and spicy – eating sweets like Pelón Pelo Rico or Pica Fresa hard candies or Rocaletas suckers. And the sweet michelada has become the adult version of those beloved sweets. You can find many a street party started, maintained, and ended with micheladas of wild flavors, leaving both hangovers and sugar-induced comas in their wake.

At this point, the tiny La Chubechada has received visitors from all over the world, and the residents of Ignacio Manuel Altamarino neighborhood are used to seeing faces they don’t recognize. The only real worry for visitors is where you are going to head when the beer starts to hit your bladder, as the shop doesn’t have its own bathroom and depends on the public one down the block which closes early.

Raya and his cousins’ dream now is to make La Chubechada into a real deal bar in a cool mall somewhere in Mexico City, but right now he’s working on making his tiny convenience store into a beer deposito – a kind of beer bulk store. While the fame of being on television has been a boon for the shop, they remain humble.

“We just want to make our customers happy,” Raya says, “Everyone in the world sells micheladas, but we wanted to do it how it’s supposed to be done.”

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PJ Rountree

Published on August 12, 2022

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