Ismael Milo Gama, a fourth-generation agave harvester, sharpens his machete before cutting into a blue agave plant at the Jose Cuervo fields // © 2015 Emma Weissmann
Feature image (above): Much of the world’s supply of tequila is produced in the eponymous Mexican town. // © 2015 Thinkstock
If clients are looking to experience the sounds of Mexico, direct them to the Tlaquepaque neighborhood in Guadalajara, home of the traditional Mexican mariachi band. But for the country’s best tastes, head 40 miles northwest to the town of Tequila, where much of the world’s supply of tequila is produced. (Hint: When you hit the blue agave fields, you’ll know you’re getting close.)
Until recently, Tequila has been thought of as a one-day destination. The town — named a Pueblo Magico (magical town) in 2003 by the Mexican government — is relatively easy to reach from the bustling metropolis of Guadalajara. Visitors need only to hop onboard the Jose Cuervo Express train, which departs from Guadalajara’s Ferromex station and arrives in Tequila two hours later. The train began operation in 2012 and currently runs on weekends.
Guests can spend the day touring distilleries and stop for a bite at Fonda Cholula, a restaurant that captures the spirit (and flavors) of Cholula hot sauce, which also is owned by Cuervo.
Now, Cuervo’s hospitality division, Tequila Espiritu de Mexico, is tempting guests to stay longer and become further acquainted with “the drink of the gods.”
Over the last three years, the company has invested $100 million in tourism-related ventures, including the train and the newly opened Solar de las Animas, a luxury hotel just steps away from the front door of Cuervo’s distillery.
The 93-room hotel offers Deluxe, Superior and Master King rooms, along with the nearly 1,200-square-foot Royal Suite. Guests can enjoy an outdoor pool and a sky bar with views of nearby mountains, as well as dine on-site at the hotel’s contemporary Mexican restaurant. For special occasions or business events, the hotel can host banquets and has meeting rooms available.
The property is also home to Hacienda Camichines, an events-only space that has the biggest cellar in Latin America, according to Mark Bayardo, coordinator for international events for Jose Cuervo. It features all of Cuervo’s signature tequilas.
Solar de las Animas will offer several packages and tours. Currently available is Experience Rio Golf, which includes a Superior King or Double room, a welcome cocktail, daily buffet breakfast and the green fee for El Rio Country Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. Future offers will include a horseback-riding tour, a city tour and a hot-air balloon ride. Or, those looking for more adventure can climb up a volcano or rappel down a nearby waterfall, according to Carlos Arnulfo Vazquez, community manager for Tequila Espiritu de Mexico.
My tip: When visiting Tequila, take a walk down the street to La Capilla, ranked among the World’s 50 Best Bars in 2015. When I visited, a mariachi band played as I enjoyed a batanga cocktail, made with coke, salt, lime juice and tequila, along with a “special ingredient” that the bartender kept a secret.