The One Ingredient That Makes Cheap Beer Taste Incredible

You’ll never forget the first time you have a can of cheap beer with hot sauce. I know this because I’ll never forget the first time I had a can of cheap beer with hot sauce. It looked ridiculous sliding across the bar, at Lorraine Bar in Philadelphia, the top brimming with Crystal hot sauce, some of it drooling over the lip of the can, some seeping into its mouth gagged with a lime wedge. I felt as silly ordering the drink as I did watching the bartender make it—and as I did drinking it (a hot sauce mustache is a look). But none of this is why I’ll never forget my first time, and none of it is why you’ll never forget yours, either. 

No, your first can of cheap beer literally doused in hot sauce (the top of the can, too—not just mixed into the beer) will be memorialized in your brain forever, because it’s an absurd move to drink something that looks like a mistake. You have to trust that it’s, one, somehow not a mistake, and two, a tasty not-mistake.

Even if it gets all over your mouth and fingers when you drink it. That’s all part of the Experience. It’s a welcome departure from the fancy straws and precious glassware that tend to be a bit of a mood killer at bars. Plus, it is technically a cocktail (in that it’s a mixed alcoholic beverage), but it requires no real forethought, or really, any thinking at all—which is nice given our collective exhaustion of obscure bitters and amaros. It’s sort of like a Michelada—the Mexican concoction that combines light beer with tomato juice or purée, lime, and salt—but, you know, quicker. There’s no tomato juice or purée in the case of canned cheap beers with hot sauce—but hot sauce is made of vinegar and hot peppers, and hot peppers are basically long, spicy tomatoes, right? Plus, a cheap beer with hot sauce should always be served with a wedge of lime. Very Micheladian in that respect.

At home, you build the drink to your personal taste, with your favorite hot sauce and your favorite canned beer — PBR, Bud Light, Miller Lite, High Life if you want to get fancy. You can rim the can with salt, the same way you would a Michelada, but even that might be too much zhuzh for a can of cheap beer with hot sauce all over it.

Chicago’s Pub Royale features a “dressed Hamm’s” on its menu—a can of Hamm’s beer dipped in Valentina hot sauce, rimmed with a salt/sugar/paprika mixture, served with a lime wedge. The bar’s beverage director, Graham Heubach, tells me that they were inspired by the “Loaded Tecates” at NYC bar Mother’s Ruin, where they dash the top of a Tecate can with Cholula. Pub Royale made it their own by using very Chicagoan ingredients: Hamm’s, a midwest staple; Valentina, a product of Jalisco in Mexico (where many of Chicago’s residents hail from).

As you can imagine, it’s a very popular drink at Pub Royale. Heubach says that they are a top ten Hamm’s account in the state of Illinois, and that roughly half of the Hamm’s sold there are dressed with hot sauce. Popular, I assume, because the ease and mess of a canned cheap beer covered in hot sauce is just plain lovable. Unforgettable, too.

Here’s how to make it: Squirt hot sauce ALL OVER the top of a can of beer, until it reaches the lip. Squeeze lime to taste. 

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