If you’re lucky enough to have Alfredo Sanchez, Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Mexico’s bar manager, make you a cocktail, three things become immediately clear: First, he makes some unforgettable drinks; second, he is an expert who’s on the cutting edge of his craft; and third, he has encyclopedic knowledge of Mexican wine and spirits.
Together with his staff of 32 bartenders, Sanchez oversees the beverage programs at 12 different bars across the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star resort. Each of the locations has its own list and its own personality, yet Sanchez changes the lineup of libations twice a year, ensuring that deliciously creative cocktails not only capture the trends of the moment, but are also imbued with uniquely Mexican characteristics.
As a prelude to the upcoming fifth annual American Express Punta Mita Gourmet & Golf Classic, taking place April 30 through May 3, Forbes Travel Guide caught up with the beverage guru to get a pulse on what he’s doing at the resort, see what’s hot in the world of Mexican cocktails, and to find out his picks for some of the best things to do besides frolicking on the golden shores of the Riviera Nayarit.
Can you describe your top bars and the kind of drinks we can find there?
Our main bar is the Aramara Bar. It’s located at our Asian fusion restaurant, Aramara. It’s amazing because we offer Latin bites there with a killer Cuban band. The kind of cocktails we prepare at that bar are made with Asian ingredients combined with Mexican ingredients. You can find a margarita made with a little bit of ginger or lemongrass. You can find sake-tinis made with Mexican ingredients. We also have a new bar at the beach called Shack’s Bar. The idea is that we try to represent a little bit of very local bars that you can find in the beaches nearby. It’s a little bit of a blend between a tiki and a Mexican bar. We are making a green Bloody Mary, a mixture of Mexican herbs with a little bit of tequila. We have a drink called El Machetazo, and we are serving it in a baby watermelon; inside of it is a combination of watermelon mixed with mezcal and dried chiles. That one is a must. It’s a very interesting flavor. That one is very popular right now. We are also making seasonal cocktails there that we can pair with the food. It’s a nice bar where you can see the sunset.
Is there another signature cocktail that we have to get at the Four Seasons Punta Mita?
One of our most popular cocktails is the aguachile margarita. The aguachile margarita has been on the list at Bahia Bar for three or four years. It’s a big success. We created this margarita based on a very local dish called the aguachile. Basically, it’s a combination of serrano chile, a little bit of cucumber, [too]. It’s got cilantro on it, and the tequila that is used to prepare our margaritas. It’s one of the most popular drinks.
Can you speak to your wine program?
Right now, at the Mexican restaurant Ketsi, all of our wine selections are Mexican. Our objective is to really promote and showcase the Mexican terroir. Last year, I went to Valle de Guadalupe. We are working very close with the different winemakers to find wines that are interesting. For example, even though it is difficult to find pinot noir on our list, you can find Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, our own Mexican version of super Tuscan. [You can also order] wines from the oldest winery in America — Casa Madero in the Northern part of Mexico. You can find wines from Baja California. Right now, winemaking in Mexico is a little bit of an experiment. All the winemakers here in Mexico are a little bit crazy; they are creating a lot of different things. So, at the end, we are trying to go as local as we can, so that we can showcase what Mexican winemaking is about.
What trends are you seeing in the Mexican beverage world right now?
What’s super trendy, especially in Mexico City and New York, is that people are mixing a lot of mezcal. Mezcal is becoming a new thing, because it’s actually difficult to find in the states. You want to choose a mezcal that is responsible within the community, one that really cares about what is going on in Oaxaca or the region that they are producing mezcal, one that is trying to keep the tradition. I love a brand called Mezcales de Leyenda. That brand goes to different states in Mexico, and they basically select the best tequilas that they can find in that region, and produce very traditional mezcal in small quantities.
What do you have planned for the upcoming season?
I think what’s very hot are the cocktails with mezcal, for sure. Another thing that is going to be super trendy are the GTs (gin and tonics), and that’s going to be our concept at Tamai [Pool Bar]. Right now, we are doing a lot of experiments to mix the right type of gin with the right kind of tonic and the right type of spices. That bar is going to have a very Spanish influence, so we’re going to have sangrias, too.
We’re also trying to show a part of Mexico through our amenities with make-your-own offerings. I give you all the ingredients. I explain how to make it and you create whatever you want to drink yourself. One of the amenities we just introduced is a tray that allows you to make your own Mexican white sangria. You’ll receive a half bottle of Mexican chardonnay. You receive a small-batch spirit made in Mexico the same way they make cognac in France. You receive lime juice and agave nectar, and you mix these ingredients with some fresh fruit.
Tell us about the Four Seasons Ultimate Tequila Tour.
Last year, we released what’s called The Ultimate Tequila Tour. Whenever you come to the Four Seasons, the idea is that you have a unique experience. Since we are very close to Tequila, Jalisco, we decided to create a tour where you can have the whole Four Seasons experience. Basically, you take a helicopter from here, and we take you to Tequila, Jalisco. You’ll travel with a Four Seasons chef [like Hector Leyva], our cultural concierge or with myself. You’ll go to the Jose Cuervo distillery, the oldest factory in town. They make a VIP tour there, and you’ll have a chance to go taste in the room where they have all the barrels of Reserva de la Familia (family reserve). Also, you’ll have a [live music] show and a dinner with a menu prepared by the Four Seasons chef, so it’s a whole experience.
Can you recommend your favorite local places around Punta Mita?
I highly recommend visiting Puerto Vallarta. You can go to a mezcaleria in downtown Puerto Vallarta called Bar Morelos. They have 50 different varieties of mezcals. There is also a small restaurant in downtown called Maia. The chef at the restaurant, Hugo Ahumada, used to be the chef at Café des Artistes, one of the famous restaurants in this area. This chef opened Maia, and he makes very traditional cocktails and dishes — the place is amazing. If you want to find a nice experience, you can also go to Sayulita, a little town 20 minutes from the resort. There are a lot of new bars and concepts. They have bars with mezcal and bars with beers. This place is less about going to one restaurant, but more about tasting whatever you can find there. It’s a whole experience.