While researching beer recipes for Léger’s still life I discovered a little gem that combines two of my favorite drinks in a way that caused me to smack my forehead and yelp ‘Egad!’ I have a fondness for dark beer and Bloody Marys which happen to be the two central components of a Michelada. Think of the dark beer as a replacement for the tomato juice and vodka which creates a rich caramel drink with a hint of spice and lovely sour note. To me this spicy drink is the perfect paring for the bright colours and bold shapes in Léger’s painting.

Fernand Léger, Still Life with a Beer Mug, 1921
oil on canvas, 92.1 x 60 cm

Fernand Léger’s background in architecture proved to be a defining characteristic of his artistic style. The angular forms and patterns found in the paintings from his ‘mechanical period’ all embody the post-war mentality of order and regulation. The horizontal and vertical lines throughout the canvas provide clarity through their repetition in what initially appears to be a jumbled composition. Léger often worked within what he called the ‘law of contrasts’. Still Life with a Beer Mug distills the contrasts down to liner angles, circles and curves. Historically the depiction of beer has been used to represent barbarian culture as well as prosperity through human labour (1).

A Michelada is known in Mexico as a cerveza preparada (‘prepared beer’) which can be likened to a shandy. The typical recipe for a cerveza preparada contains tomato juice, Mexican beer and lime juice poured into a salt-rimmed glass. The Mexican Michelada is essentially a Bloody Mary with beer instead of vodka. In the 1940s it was popular to mix beer with hot sauce or salsa. It was during this time that the Michelada was invented. The drink has become commercially popular in the United States with Miller producing ‘Miller Chill’ made with a ‘hint of salt and lime’ as well as Anheuser-Busch producing ‘Budweiser Chelada’ which combines lager, lime, salt, and clamato juice (2).


adapted from Gourmet

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 lime, halved
2 TB fresh lime juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Splash of hot sauce
1 chilled dark beer

Mix the salt and chili powder on a small plate. Run a lime half around edge of a pint glass and then rub in the salt mixture to coat the rim.

Add lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce to glass, then top with the beer.