About 100 miles southwest of the city of Tequila, Mexico, is located Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa welcomes guests to the region with a tequila training program and a proprietary brand of tequila, CasaMagna. The two offerings are managed by the resort’s Tequilier (tequila sommelier), which helps introduce guests to the state of Jalisco, which both Tequila (the city) and the resort call home. “We are located in the cradle of tequila and it was important for us to share this, where we are, with our guests; educate them about our unique culture and country and also pass on our passion for the spirit to them, ”says Audrey Formisano, Tequilier at Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa.
The program was implemented two decades ago when Mr. Dennis Whitelaw, the then head of administration for the resort, wanted to share everything that Puerto Vallarta’s location represented. When Formisano joined the team, the program flourished with even more interactive experiences in relation to tequila and especially with CasaMagna. Today, these experiences range from a free tequila tasting to a private session led by Formisano or simply choosing one of the resort’s signature cocktails over sunset.
The property is working with Tequila Selecto de Amatitán to produce four expressions of CasaMagna – blanco, reposado, añejo and añejo extra – only available on the property. Formisano shares, “It was important for us to support a local producer to accurately promote our culture.” She adds the distinct taste of tequila – with notes of flowers, wood, caramel and cinnamon – combined with the fact that it can only be sold at the hotel, making the label an exclusive blend and unique to the property and Marriott resorts. internationally. Today, the resort is the only Marriott hotel in the world that produces their own brand of tequila, something Formisano and the team are proud of.
“We have never wanted to compete with other companies that have been on the market for years, which is why we only sell our tequila at the hotel,” shares Formisano. “We are not allowed to sell it elsewhere, and after all, it was designed to be an educational tool for our guests to learn about the culture of our destination.”
Below, Formisano shares more about the initiatives from the tequila training program as well as what guests can expect at check-in, including the property’s library of 180 tequila bottles.
Jillian Dara: How did the idea of creating a tequila training program come about?
Audrey Formisano: The idea of having our own tequila came about because the city of Tequila is located in Jalisco, the same state of Mexico that Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa is located. Tequila came first and the program shortly after. It was important that we made our own tequila because we did not want to be associated with another (any) brand as people make the comparison and that is the key to remember that tequila is not our main business but a unique aspect of the resort to teach our guests about our local culture.
JD: How do you reflect the hotel and the property in the label?
OF: Our bottle, which is handmade locally, is blue to reflect the agave field, and the label also contains a drawing of the agave plant. The name CasaMagna used to be the name of the hotel, so that’s the origin of our tequila’s name. Now guests at the resort can even find the blue agave-printed wallpaper in our Jalisco-inspired rooms.
JD: Can you share more about the taste profiles of tequila?
OF: Our blanco smells like agave, has a floral taste and a fresh finish. It goes well with light flavors like seafood, lime and apple as it balances the palate. In reposado you start to smell the hints of oak and caramel. It is woody and tastes like chocolate or vanilla (depending on taste) and has a smooth, buttery finish. It works well with heavier starters or highly flavored dishes like chicken or a more potent fruit. Añejo has a strong oaky and woody taste and can have a chocolate, caramel, vanilla or even roasted almond flavor. It has a creamy finish and is usually served with dessert, usually all chocolate, like mousse. The añejo extra has similar flavors but a deeper caramel and chocolate flavor; a good drink after dinner.
JD: Why did you think it was so important to offer this type of facilities to your guests, and how has it turned out?
OF: It was important for us to offer it to the guests because it was a cultural experience many of our guests do not know. At first, we only offered the bottle to our guests during on-site inspections as a thank you for bringing group transactions, but we quickly found out that the overwhelmingly positive response meant we needed to sell it and showcase it on the property.
JD: Do you offer a unique cocktail with your tequila?
OF: We offer several cocktails with tequila (and of course guests can also request it in any cocktail we make on the property), but some examples include Mango Margarita, which is made with our Tequila Blanco, but also our Rosemary Smoked Ginger Margarita, which is made with :
- 3 ounces CasaMagna añejo
- 1 ounce lime juice
- 1 tablespoon ginger puree
- 3 tablespoons agave syrup
JD: How do you engage the guests with the drinks?
OF: As soon as guests enter, they will see our outdoor Ceviche + Tequila bar next to the lobby, which has over 180 bottles of tequila on display (equivalent to a library), but we also have our CasaMagna on display in front and in the middle of the lobby for catch the guest’s eye. Our resort fee includes a basic tequila tasting, and of course we offer CasaMagna when a guest asks for a margarita. We also offer our tequila bottle as a recreation during an on-site inspection and occasionally include it in a hotel package.
JD: Aside from the tequila, how have the spirits and bar offerings on the property changed in the last decade?
OF: Tequila continues to grow in popularity and we have noticed that in the last few years guests have more knowledge about tequila, but we are also seeing a growing interest in mezcal and raicilla. There has definitely been a shift. The guests are more demanding than before as they like to create their own drinks which is a welcome challenge as it also pushes us to be even more creative.