Because the solar set on the summer season, I set off on a solo journey to Riviera Maya — a quick and simple trek from my residence in Houston — for just a few days of enjoyable within the solar earlier than the joy of the vacation season revved up. I traveled to Mayakoba, an eco-friendly enclave positioned north of Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Caribbean shoreline, flanked by mangrove jungles and dreamy white sand seashores. Of the 4 luxurious resorts positioned inside the 600-acre gated neighborhood, I stayed at Rosewood Mayakoba, lauded for its serene environs, outsized lagoon-front suites, and extra not too long ago, its vacation spot bar, Zapote, named on North America’s 50 Greatest Bars listing two years working.
I’m all the time intrigued when a restaurant or bar seems on such an inventory, however on this case, I used to be much more considering visiting Zapote for its Tuesday evening pop-up collection that includes visitor bartenders from Mexico and the U.S., coined Martes de Locales, which means Native Tuesday. Alba Huerta, a fellow Houstonian and James Beard Award recipient for Excellent Beverage Program for her cocktail bar Julep, was slated to seem. Naturally, I used to be a fan.
After a lazy couple of days exploring the Mayakoba grounds by bicycle, stopping for sustenance usually at Rosewood’s beachfront restaurant, Aqui Me Quedo, I equipped for Tuesday evening at Zapote. From informal conversations with the resort employees, I obtained the impression that the bar was the crown jewel of the complete Mayakoba compound — and for good cause. Tuesdays are traditionally the slowest evening of the week at most resorts, and Martes de Locales was created to reel in guests. Zapote is likely one of the solely nightlife locations within the space that hosts such an expertise, and with reservations accessible to all on OpenTable, it entices friends of close by motels.
I’ve traveled to many Mexican resort cities and skilled tequila-fueled day events at resort seashore golf equipment and high-energy nights at Coco Bongo in Downtown Cancun, however this felt totally different — like an unique gathering reserved for these within the know.
At nightfall, wild flames from torches and lanterns illuminated Rosewood’s winding strolling paths. The moody ambiance provided simply sufficient gentle to information my method to Zapote, tucked in a nook past the resort’s open-air foyer, and I felt the mushy pulse of music earlier than I approached the bar’s entrance. The design for Zapote is impressed by Riviera Maya’s pure magnificence, and the bar is split into indoor and out of doors seating areas touting non-public and communal tables, with an extended bar as the realm’s essential focus. I used to be shocked to see patrons perched on both aspect of the bar counter, whereas targeted bartenders navigated their means round friends to succeed in bottles, glassware, and elements. An open kitchen was seen behind the bar, and the intoxicating aroma of grilled meats being cooked over a stay hearth was laborious to disregard. A DJ was arrange close by, supplementing the vibey ambiance with fixed beats. The homey, communal seating association is a nod to Mexican hacienda tradition, by which neighborhood and togetherness are extremely regarded.
By the point I arrived at 7 p.m., the dimly-lit house was buzzing with exercise, as friends huddled over cocktails just like the Royal Guayaba Fizz, made with prickly pear gin, jasmine tea, and aquafaba. Huerta had taken middle stage, so to talk. Every week, the honorary bartender is given an area on the head of a communal desk to craft cocktails in full view of the patrons. The interactive format permits for dialog and an up-close have a look at the bartenders in motion. Zapote’s beverage director, Joshua Monaghan, was a relentless presence, sashaying his means by means of the house and greeting friends with form phrases and contagious laughter.
A fast scan of the room proved Zapote is as a lot a draw for its meals as its cocktails: Nearly all of friends dined as they drank. To showcase the variety of the Yucatan Peninsula, the menu leans into Center Japanese flavors with dishes like spiced beef and lamb kebab with tomatillo salsa, and hummus with chickpeas barbacoa.
The evening progressed, and I may really feel the power altering, as a pair of stay musicians joined the DJ at his publish. By 9 p.m. as I used to be ending the final of my lamb chops and roasted smoked cauliflower, regular percussion mixed with the penetrating rumble of a trombone flooded the room. Company, bartenders, and even Huerta, let the rhythm take management, as they swayed to the pleased, upbeat music. When the trombone participant paraded atop of the bar to belt out a robust finale, the gang erupted in applause.
The identical power would encapsulate Zapote the next Tuesday… and the one after that, and so forth. A sensational lineup of visitor bartenders are slated to seem at Martes de Locales within the coming months, together with Mapo Milano from Cafe de Nadie in Mexico Metropolis on December 19, Harrison Ginsberg from Overstory in New York Metropolis on January 9, and Luke Mallery from the Damaged Shaker in Los Angeles on January 16.
Now that I’m again residence, steeped in my common routine, I can recall few Tuesday nights in my life that have been as enthralling. I’ll have been touring solo, however at Zapote, I used to be in nice firm amongst vacationers from world wide and the bar’s spirited employees — all including to the one-of-a-kind expertise that’s Martes de Locales.
Megha McSwain is a contract author and Eater Houston contributor.