La Cruda: Phoenix's Only Brick-and-Mortar Clamato Shop Explains What a Clamato Is

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"La Cruda" might be slang in Spanish for hangover, but the owners of newly-opened Clamatos La Cruda on 32nd Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix claim you can enjoy a clamato at their shop in any state of mind.

And though you may think a clamato is simply clam broth and tomato juice or a twist on the Bloody Mary, our trip to La Cruda showed us that the traditional Mexican drink is so much more.

Owners Marco Carrillo and Ivonne Manriquez are childhood friends from Mexico, who reconnected this year via Facebook and bonded over a shared dream of making and selling clamatos. In April, they debuted La Cruda as a stand on a 24th Street and Thomas. Its popularity inspired them to open the brick-and-mortar shop this summer.

All of the clamatos at La Cruda are Carrillo's own invention — though most follow a traditional base of clamato juice, chamoy sauce (a fruit and spice sauce popular in Mexico), chile powder, lemon juice, and a combination of toppings like shrimp or beef jerky. In addition, Carrillo mixes in his special, secret house sauce to most drinks.

The "Cachonda" (which means "in heat" or "horny") is one of the more simple drinks at La Cruda — simplicity being relative to the other, very elaborate items on the restaurant's menu. It comes with a juice base, a tamarindo candy stick, and fresh shrimp. The tomato taste is very strong in this drink, with just a hint of fish and smoky tamarindo. 

But the most popular drink at La Cruda is the "La Mamadelascrudas," a salty, fishy clamato topped with both dried and fresh shrimp, baby clams, beef jerky, and a tamarindo stick. Like Carrillo says about this drink, "You can taste the ocean." 

If clamato juice isn't your thing, Carrillo has a few other creations up his sleeve. The "Agua Loca" has a base of Topo Chico mineral water, chamoy sauce, fresh lime, and chopped fruit. It's not overly sweet, but refreshing and tangy. 

For those who like to consume their food on a plate, ask for a fruit plate at La Cruda. Carrillo drizzles pieces of pineapple, citrus, and watermelon with chamoy sauce, sprinkling the fruit with chile and other spices.

Carrillo is coming up with new drinks all the time. And although most of the item's on his restaurant's menu come in a cup, it doesn't mean customers should not come hungry. 

"It's a meal," he says.

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