A grandmother’s special recipe is the heart of a family-owned michelada stand at Fiesta De Los Reyes at Market Square, bringing in between $40,000 and $45,000 each year during Fiesta.
On Friday, Lorenzo Ramirez Jr. sat behind the counter and observed the crowds gathering for Fiesta De Los Reyes. Aiming to set the Fiesta mood, he selected a playlist of salsa, merengue and cumbias to lure customers to his booth selling what he bills as the “Original Michelada.”
“We back it up,” he said. “My grandma’s spice, nobody has [it] and everybody tries to get it, and they try, [but] they miss it. That’s why we call ourselves the original micheladas.”
Ramirez’s grandmother, Concepción “Concha” Almendarez, lived in Mexico and was known by her family as an outgoing, lively housewife who loved to party and be around family. She liked to drink and developed her own recipe for micheladas, the iced beer drink that includes tomato juice, lime and chili powders.
That was at least 50 years ago, but before her death, Almendarez passed down her spice recipe for micheladas to her daughter, who passed it on to her son, Ramirez, who carried on the tradition by making the drink at family gatherings.
For about 40 years, Ramirez’s parents have been Fiesta vendors at Market Square. They began with fruits and aguas frescas, then tacos and eventually elote en vaso, or corn in a cup.
A short walk from The Original Michelada stand at Market Square, Ramirez’s parents sell their elote en vaso from another stand.
Eight years ago, Ramirez realized his grandmother’s unique blend of spices could help him launch his own Fiesta food business. Friends and family who enjoyed his micheladas encouraged him to sell them at Market Square on weekends during Fiesta.
So he took on the responsibility of carrying on his grandmother’s legacy. He describes her michelada spices as having a “sweet, sour, strawberry” taste.
With at least two other michelada stands at the Market Square, Ramirez said what sets his business apart is his grandmother’s original recipe rather than a store-bought option.
One customer, Alisa Silguero, was visiting from Corpus Christi and purchased a michelada. Although she had tasted micheladas before, she said Ramirez’s version was special.
“They’re super good,” Silguero said. “This one’s different. You can just taste more flavors.”
The family business is at all Market Square events just outside of Los Arcos Gift Shop. His son, Lorenzo J. Ramirez, prepares each cup with the saucy rim, ice and special spices, adding a straw and a celery stalk. Ramirez’s sister Elena then pours each beer before handing it over to another brother, Jerry Ramirez, who presents it to the customer.
Across Market Square, the Ramirez parents sell their elote en vaso from another stand.
Despite all the family members around him, Lorenzo Ramirez Jr. felt the absence of one person: his wife, Cyndi, who died of a heart attack on Christmas last year.
He described her as the “rock” and “backbone” of the business, so Fiesta without her is hard.
“I was ready to quit” after her death, Ramirez said. “Knowing her, she would’ve gotten mad. I know [my son] is still hurting, but I said, ‘We have to keep going. What do you think she would’ve wanted?’ That’s what we’re doing.”
Elena Ramirez said she was doing everything she could to make her late sister-in-law and her grandmother proud.
“She’s my sister-in-law, so I get sad,” she said. “This is our first Fiesta week without her.”
As he carries on the business, Ramirez said it has grown with the help of bloggers and social media influencers, who post the Original Michelada on TikTok and Instagram. The family is making bigger plans, hoping to sell grandma’s special spices packaged in a jar.
“This is no hype,” Ramirez said. “This is the real deal, the original.”