By Francine Cohen
All photos courtesy of Unico 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya
When Unico 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya opened in 2017 everything they did, from sense of arrival to decor to room
rates to retail, restaurants, and included activities were truly unique at this adults-only all-inclusive boutique property that envelopes guests in local culture, luxuriously.
That fresh take on operations, driven by maintaining an enhanced guest experience, also touched the bars.
In the past when you found yourself at the bar at an all-inclusive property, no matter if it was a swim up bar or one where the drinks were wetter than the guests, the back bar was pretty uniform; filled with the same bottles you’d find anywhere. That’s not the case at Unico 20˚87˚. Land at this property and you’ll find that each cocktail is prepared with the same care, attention and creativity as you’d find at the world’s finest cocktail bars.
This is all thanks to ownership’s creative vision and the personal passions of Beverage Manager, Luis Felipe Vallejo, who has more than 20 years behind the bar and a lot of perspective on what guests want and need. So, when the time came to fashion his own program the vision he had was expansive, and innovative in the region. He shares his vision for the program that integrates both property wide outlets as well as in-room cocktailing. He explains,” To take the program to another level, by using all natural ingredients we mark the difference among other resorts, and by implementing the mixology throughout the hotel at every single bar, even in the guest room, is something that no other all-inclusive is doing. “
Being unique in the all-inclusive space didn’t just stop with the liquor. As any self-respecting bar professional would, be focused on every component of his drinks. Vallejo notes, “By using all natural ingredients we mark the difference among other resorts, and implementing the mixology throughout the hotel at every single bar, even in the guest room, is something that no other all-inclusive is doing.”
Vallejo’s passion for the craft, and great guest service shines through; in interactions with him and his staff and in the cocktail menu itself. When evaluating new hires Vallejo says the most important things he looks for are “people who are committed and passionate in this profession.” He takes that passion, pairs it with the carefully chosen spirits he’s selected for their high quality, texture and flavor, and then takes a hands-off approach with his staff since he knows the best way to make a great barman is to, “Let them be themselves, showing pride in local culture and surprising our guests.”
Guests are also always pleasantly surprised by the property’s wine list which he oversees. It’s a mix of Mexican wines and those from other regions around the globe, all chosen to specifically pair well with each of the property’s unique restaurant menus.
They’re also pleased by how much cocktail & spirit knowledge they can glean at one of Vallejo’s afternoon cocktail classes. Taught four times a week with different subjects in each one, starting with the origin of the distillate, history and origin of the cocktail, preparation of the cocktail and then the guest recreates each cocktail this is more than just a refreshing respite from the afternoon Mexican sun; they’re a serious, and seriously fun, hands-on education designed to guarantee that home bars are getting better after vacations at Unico 20˚87˚.
For guests not consuming alcohol while on vacation, or after they return home, there’s no shortage of excitement in the glasses they’re handed upon arrival or across the bar during the stay. Local, authentic experiences are the focus on property from decor to activities to drinks, and it is delivered at every turn. Vallejo concludes, “I created these drinks to boost the local flavors and culture and have our guests try something new and exquisite.”
2 oz. Vodka Infused with Chile de Arbol (sun-dried pepper)
1 oz. Lemon Juice
1 oz. Agave Honey
1.5 grams Strawberries
3 Basil leaves
3 Mint Leaves
Chile de Arbol for garnish
Lemon twist for garnish
Add vodka, lemon juice, strawberries, mint, basil, agave to a shaker and muddle
Add ice and shake
Strain into a chilled martini glass
Garnish with lemon twist and Chile de Arbol