The Ancestral Drink Tasting at Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a Flavorful and Educational Experience
by Eric Marsh
Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a luxury, all-inclusive resort on the northeastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. It’s set on 200+ acres flanked by mangroves on one side and white sand beaches on the other. The resort houses eight restaurants, four bars, and has three swim-up bars; included in the all-inclusive nightly rate are fine wines, innovative cocktails, and each room is stocked with an artisanal 100% Espadin agave mezcal, created exclusively for the resort by master mezcalero, Olvídame Si Puedes. The compendium goes on, but of note most recently is the Ancestral Drink Tasting that features four different plant-based spirits from around the country.
The Ancestral Drink Tasting is both an experience in flavor and education, where guests learn about Mexico’s rich past through its century-old history of making spirits. There are four spirits featured: bacanora, a spirit derived from the Pacific agave that grows wild in the Sonoran region in northern Mexico, sotol, a herbaceous spirit made in Durango by hand-grinding the spear-like leaves of wild Dasylirion plants, tuxca, a handmade minerally mezcal made with over 20 different agaves that grow from the volcanic soils south of Jalisco, and pox, a sugarcane- and wheat-based spirit from Chipas made with water from ancient springs discovered by Mayan ancestors.
The spirits are served in flights as well as incorporated into house cocktails.
Sommelier of Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Eduardo Quiroga, spoke about how the team came up with the concept, and about his own history growing up in Mexico. “I tapped into the life experience of our team—including our best mixologists—into their deep knowledge of Mexico’s culinary and beverage traditions, and their studies and apprenticeships in wine and spirits. And my own experience—I came from an agricultural community in Atzcapotzaltongo, surrounded by valleys, rivers, and nature, where I could appreciate the flowers, aromatic herbs, and gastronomy of the varied peoples of Mexico. In my childhood I accompanied my maternal grandfather in the art of extraction of aguamiel (water from Maguey) and elaboration of pulque. I then went on to work with some of the leading chefs in the country.”
Quiroga continued to talk about the drinks that came from the collaboration, using the spirits from the tasting as well as other local ingredients. “The Aldama cocktail, named after Juan Aldama, a Mexican revolutionary rebel soldier during the Mexican War of Independence in 1810, features ocote, sotol, controy, pineapple juice, and morita pepper syrup,” he said. “The Chaya Lemonade has pox, chaya infusion, agave syrup, and lemon foam. The Salang cocktail is made with pox, passion fruit syrup, hibiscus concentrate, and lemon juice. A Pitahaya Passion is made with bacanora, grapefruit juice, mashed pitahaya, and agave syrup.”
The Ancestral Drink Tasting is held weekly during high tourist season and will be held during special events in the off-season. But there are always exciting experiences to partake in at Grand Velas Riviera Maya—past beverage experiences have included excursions to Mexican wine country and to Tequila via a private plane for a tasting at Mexico’s oldest tequila house.
“At Velas Resorts we make a serious commitment to ongoing innovation with unique experiences,” Quiroga said. “Wherever possible, these are inspired by Mexican history, culture and traditions, which impart a rich sense of place.”