A view from the city: Tulum

Angel Brown speaks to Lorena Seligson co-founder of We Are Bartenders and cocktail writer

Tell us little about Tulum’s drinking culture. What are the traditional drinks and how are things changing?

It is amazing how quickly Tulum has evolved. A few years ago, Margaritas and Piña Coladas were indispensable. Nowadays, due to the boom in tourism, bartenders feel the need to experiment with different ingredients and flavours to please visitors from all over the world. Our local favourite is the Ojo Rojo, meaning Red Eye – a Mexican beer with tomato juice, spicy sauces and a salty rim – a perfect remedy for when you are ‘crudo’ (hungover), or just to refresh the soul. There are also hand-craft ed cocktails made with local ingredients, such as Mexican spirits including sotol, pox, mezcal and bacanora. There are even straws made with lemongrass or papaya stem for a more original and ecofriendly presentation.

How advanced is the cocktail culture in Tulum?

Believe it or not, from the locals to the tourists the cocktail culture has grown exponentially. Many people come to Tulum to rejuvenate, unwind, explore, and have a cocktail or two, especially because bartenders are very passionate and competitive. We have a lot of skilful bartenders behind the bar. This November, Tulum is going to be hosting We Are Monday, the first bar show in Tulum solely dedicated 100% to Mexican Spirits.

Who and what are the pioneer bartenders and bars?

I’d like to mention these passionate bartenders who work every day to improve our cocktail culture: Israel ‘El Chore’: A true alchemist. A painter and musician, after that he harnessed his career in creating magic behind the bar. His innovative techniques working with local ingredients have propelled him in creating a lot of menus for bars all around Tulum. Peter Sanchez: head bartender of Arca and co-founder of We Are Bartenders, he started the cocktail movement in Playa del Carmen along with Aldo Piccini. Alex Sanchez: he is leader of Clínicas Clandestinas, a platform of free seminars for bartenders. He was also head bartender of Todos Santos, a no-menu bar with the use of local ingredients. Franco Batezzati: global finalist of Chivas Masters, he is super-talented and head bartender of Nu Tulum. Diego Valencia; one of the cocktail movement pioneers in Tulum, he has his own brand of lemongrass straws and he also does consulting for a lot of bars within the Riviera Maya.

Where do you think Tulum ranks in terms of bar scenes in Mexico – is it leading the way or are other cities and scenes more influential?

Tulum is having its moment. The spirit industry is watching Tulum and we are excited. During the past two years, bartenders have improved their craft, techniques, hospitality and knowledge, all for the love of cocktails. Arca and Casa Malca were nominated for Best International Bars in the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. I can proudly say Tulum has made its mark on the globe for international awareness.