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Tequila Tastings: A Fun Way to Learn About Mexican Culture While Vacationing in Cancun

Things to Do — By Susan Vincil on October 5, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Mayahuel, the Aztec Goddess of Agave | Photo by Susan R. Vincil

When someone mentions drinking tequila in Cancun, you may immediately think of people drinking shots of tequila while dancing on the bar. Well, that’s certainly something you can see in Cancun’s nightclubs, but that is definitely not how tequila is meant to be consumed. Tequila, Mexico’s quintessential national drink, has a long, rich history which dates back to the 16th century.

Tequila is so special that there is actually a regulatory board, the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (Tequila Regulatory Council), that says where tequila can be produced, checks the quality of soil where the blue agave plants are being grown & the quality of the water being used during the tequila-making process, and makes sure tequila distilleries are using a certain amount of blue agave (as opposed to one of the many other types of agave).  If a distillery meets all of the Tequila Regulatory Council’s stringent requirements, they are able to have “CRT” on the labels of their bottles.  If a bottle does not have CRT on the label, it has not been approved by the Tequila Regulatory Council, for some reason.

Partial map of Mexico, showing states where Tequila is produced | Photo by Susan R. Vincil

Like champagne, which is produced exclusively in the Champagne region of France, tequila can only be produced in certain parts of Mexico. At this time, Jalisco, Nayarit, Guanajato, Michoacan, & Tamaulipas are the only Mexican states where tequila may be made.  Even if you went through all the painstaking efforts to produce tequila in another part of Mexico, you would not be allowed to call the drink “tequila”, and you would most certainly not get the coveted CRT label on your bottles.  That’s the rule.

A great way to learn about tequila is to go to a tequila tasting.  In Cancun, there are several different places where you can taste, and learn about, tequila.  Each venue offers different tequilas in their tastings and each experience is unique. For those reasons, you could easily do tastings at all 3 places, during one vacation, and not feel like they were redundant.  If you do all of the tastings in one week you will feel like a tequila expert, and you’ll never again think of tequila as a drink that needs to be drunk quickly, from a shot glass.

Museum Logo | Photo by Susan R. Vincil

  • Tequila Herradura Museo Sensorial is a museum that gives tours about the history of tequila and explains the process of making tequila (both the old and new methods).  During the tour, you will smell & taste cooked agave and smell tequila aging in a barrel. There are also short video presentations throughout the tour. Since the word sensorial means “sensory”, it makes perfect sense that you would use all of your senses to experience the museum.  At the end of the tour, you move into the tasting room to sample tequila.  If you are not familiar with tequila tasting, the tour guide will instruct you on how to properly taste tequila.  This is a very interesting and inexpensive way to pass 60-90 minutes, and you can finish off your visit by buying some tequila in La Europea.  Cost of admission and tequila tasting ranges from $50 Pesos-$150 Pesos.  The price depends on how many tequilas you wish to sample.
  • The tequilas offered in the tasting room at Tequila Herradura Museo Sensorial | Photo by Susan R. Vincil

    The Ritz-Carlton Cancun offers 2 different ways to enjoy tequila.  They have a Tequila Flight, which is held in the lobby bar each night at 5:00pm, and they also have a Tequila Tasting, which is held every Friday night, in their Culinary Center.  The Tequila Flight is basically a discussion about tequila and is for people that know very little about tequila.  During the Tequila Flight, you will learn a little history about tequila and how it’s made, and you will taste 3 tequilas (a blanco, a reposado, and an añejo).  While in the luxurious setting of The Ritz-Carlton’s lobby bar, you will also learn how drinking tequila with certain things, like chocolate, or salt & lime, will enhance the flavors of the different tequilas.  The cost of the Tequila Flight is $45 US Dollars, and the session lasts for 45 minutes.  The Tequila Tasting is more in-depth than the Tequila Flight and is geared more towards tequila aficionados, although novices will still enjoy the experience.  The Tequila Tasting lasts for 90 minutes and, during that time, you will sample 6 tequilas.  The cost of the Tequila Tasting is $65 US Dollars.  Both the Tequila Flight and the Tequila Tasting are open to the public, but you must contact the hotel to make reservations ahead of time.  For the quality of tequilas used, the beautiful setting, and the amount of knowledge gained, both of the tastings at The Ritz are well worth the price.

  • Entrance of Restaurant La Destileria | Photo by Susan R. Vincil

    La Destileria restaurant also offers a tour and tequila tasting.  The restaurant has blue agave plants growing at the entrance and, inside, there are tools & machines used during the tequila-making process.  There are also murals painted on the ceiling that tell you the history of tequila.  One of the murals includes a painting of Mayahuel, the Goddess of Agave.  At the beginning of the tour, you are greeted with a tequila-based cocktail, called the Tequilibrio (and, yes, it’s delicious!), and then you are lead through the restaurant to see the various tools, murals, etc.  After the tour, you sit at one of the restaurants’ tables, overlooking the lagoon, and sample 3 tequilas (a blanco, a reposado, and an añejo).  The tequilas are of lesser quality than those used in the previously mentioned tastings and the experience is not as educational or fun as either of the other two options, but it’s still a good time and a good value.  Tours are given every day from 1pm (the time the restaurant opens) until 5pm.  If the restaurant is busy, they may not give tours.  It’s best to go early in the day, before they get busy.  The cost of the tour & tasting is $85 Pesos and includes the welcome cocktail, plus the 3 samples of tequilas that you have during the tasting.

For more information on Mayahuel’s fine nectar that we now call tequila, check out Tequila.net.

Tags: cancun, la destileria restaurant, ritz-carlton cancun, tequila, tequila herradura museo sensorial, tequila tastings, the culinary center at ritz-carlton cancun

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