It’s Almost Time To Celebrate What Most Americans Think is Mexican Independence Day

Cinco de Mayo is this coming Sunday. How lucky for every Mexican-themed restaurant, bar, and booze producer that the holiday falls on a weekend this year. Patrón shots and jalapeño poppers for all! But for those of us who care about such things, that means even more people than usual will be raising a glass to Mexican independence, rather than what the holiday actually commemorates, which is the Mexican army’s victory over superior French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862–while the American Civil War raged north of the border. So if you, like me, go out of your way to correct people when they write St. Patty’s Day instead of St. Paddy’s Day, then you’re in for a busy weekend. But be sure to do your research. True, Mexico’s real independence day is on September 16 (somebody tell Corona’s marketing department), but Cinco de Mayo does serve as a celebration of Mexican heritage, so it’s not a completely made-up holiday. It’s just a misunderstood one that calls for your wisdom and Wikipedia entry-reading skills. But one thing that everybody understands is that the most respectful way to mark the courage and sacrifice of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín’s troops on that fateful spring day is by downing lots of sweet, Mexican-themed cocktails. Maybe people won’t be as likely to think you’re a jerk for correcting them if you do so while handing them a glass of one of these tasty concoctions. 

Here’s one from our friends at Hornitos Tequila. Really, I’ve met them. They’re nice. 

Hornitos Pomegranate Paloma

Ingredients: 2 parts Hornitos Plata Tequila to 1⁄2 part Lime Juice

1⁄2 part Pomegranate Juice

1⁄2 part Grapefruit Juice

1⁄2 part Agave Nectar Soda Water

Pour all ingredients except for the soda water into an ice-filled cocktail shaker.  Shake and strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice. Top with soda and garnish with a mint sprig, if you’re the kind of person who keeps a mint plant by your kitchen window. A lime wheel will work for normal people. 

This next drink is from the capable crew of the Gerber Group’s new The LCL: Bar & Kitchen on 42nd Street in Mexico Manhattan.

Smoke & Heat

1 ½ ounces Vida Organic Mezcal

½ ounce Agave Nectar

½ ounce Fresh Lime Juice

½ ounce Pineapple Juice

½ ounce Egg White

Shake and strain into a coup. (The LCL peeps say: "This combination highlights the nuanced smokiness of tequila’s older cousin and fuses it with the acidity of pineapple and lime juices to produce the most sensational experience.")

The following drink uses Kappa Pisco, which comes from Chile. What does Chile have to do with Cinco de Mayo? I don’t know. The agave nectar probably comes from Mexico, at least: 

South American Margarita

1 ½ oz KAPPA Pisco

½ oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge

½ oz agave nectar

1 oz fresh lime juice

Combine ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

All these cocktails sound great, but today’s best tequilas should be consumed neat, with nary a salt shaker or lime slice in sight. My favorite tequilas of recent memory? Herradura Seleccion Suprema ($350) is amazing, if you can afford it. If not, George Clooney’s new tequila, Casamigos, is also excellent, and, at about $50, a lot easier to fit in your Cinco de Mayo budget. 

Happy Cinco, everybody! See you at the bar. 

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listing for the LCLHonk if You’re Hornitos; Screw It, Let’s Drink Some Herradura Tequila; George Clooney’s New Tequila Is Actually Quite Delicious; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

“World’s Greatest Chef” Ferran Adria Discusses El Bulli and Future Projects

At the inaugural Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival in Mexico’s beautiful Yucatan Peninsula, Ferran Adria was the guest of honor. The famed Catalonian molecular gastronomist who was the former chef at El Bulli (coined "the world’s best restaurant" by Restaurant Magazine) spoke with BlackBook about the just-released DVDEl Bulli: Cooking in Progress, and his future projects. 

What are some of the restaurants you’ve been to, while in Cancun or in New York?  Where have you been surprised?
There are extraordinary restaurants, for sure, but it is really hard to surprise people who have been in the business, like me, for more than 30 years. I’ve been lucky enough to meet people like Michel Guerard and Thomas Keller, since ’75. I’ve read hundreds of books of contemporary cuisine, and it gets harder and harder to do new things. I’m, actually, more surprised with what’s happening here in Mexico with contemporary cuisine than in Europe.
 
There’s been a movement to replicate the elBulli highlights of the menu and some of the great things that you and your chefs have cooked over the decades at other restaurants. What do you think of that?
Some people have taken the El Bulli philosophy and have done a great job. Some of the most influential cooks in the west have worked at El Bulli. We must have done something right.
 
It’s been reported that you’re opening a Mexican restaurant in Barcelona. How will it differ from El Bulli?
That’s rather my brother Albert’s project with Francisco Mendez Velez ( "Paco Mendez"). Albert’s been to Mexico many times, and it has gotten into his skin. He wants to express some things with that. We shall see what happens. He is quite a purist, in terms of types of Mexican food, but he won’t be against a certain type of evolution. The one thing that’s a fact is that it’s going to be very informal.
 
And will you have anything to do with it?
I’m going to help. We will always work together. In this case, my brother is the boss. At El Bulli, I was the boss.
 
Would you ever consider opening a restaurant in Mexico or New York?
No. I want to help a lot of people put together a restaurant – young people. Production, I’m not interested in anymore. I’ve been working for 30 years – 16, 17 hours a day. Next! But there are many ideas and concepts I do share with people. This is the last food festival I go to until I’m with the El Bulli Foundation and I’ll see what happens.
 
[Photo: Richard C. Murray/RCM IMAGES, INC]

The Gold List Goes Platinum: Conde Nast’s Annual Awards

We promised you the readers’ choice CNT Gold List was coming soon, and it’s finally been released—8 million people voted to come up with just over 500 properties worthy of inclusion. And of those, 214 were pulled out for the “Platinum Circle,” a list of properties that have been chosen all of the last five years, to mark the magazine’s 25th year. Grade inflation? As long as your tastes run to the traditionally elegant luxury in the Northern Hemisphere (including the Dorchester in London, the St. Regis in New York, and One & Only Palmilla in Cabo), high romance in the Caribbean (like the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club on Nevis), and giant modern palaces in Asia (think the InterContinental Hong Kong) then these are absolutely the crème de la crème.

Other notable picks include quirkier properties, like the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, and Las Ventanas al Paraiso on the Riviera Maya, as well as a healthy selection of properties in farther-flung destinations, including African safari lodges and an ever-growing list of properties in Australia and New Zealand, who are stepping up their luxury hotel game. 

The Latest Pop-Up Is Here to Stay: Would You Try a Pop-up Hotel?

Creating a giant resort in a popular destination is a massive undertaking. Trying to fill it in six months is even harder, leaving barely enough time for word-of-mouth to spread. But that’s exactly what travel portal Design Hotels is trying to do with their pop-up, the Papaya Playa Project, located in Tulum, Mexico.

The pop-up was launched for a few practical reasons. Design Hotels is feeling the hotel business out before a potential major investment, since they’re not currently a hotel owner or operator; It sits on an empty site waiting for an investor to come up with the funds to renovate it. And there’s immediate interest from the public and media whenever a creative idea like this is hatched.

The opportunity to try out one of the 99 cabanas starts at as little as $25 a night in the off-season, and up to $625 in the high season for a five-bedroom house. You’ll also have access to a spa and two restaurants run by KaterHolzig, a popular Berlin club, and 42°RAW, a Copenhagen restaurant whose food is cooked at 42 degrees Celsius or below. Overall, CEO Claus Sendlinger describes the atmosphere as a “five-month Burning Man on the beach." While it remains to be seen if the project will be a success, it’s certainly nice to see something new on the Riviera Maya.
 

Destination Update: Mexico

If the news coming up from south of the border has had you crossing Mexico off your destinations list the last few years, it’s time to reconsider. Hotels are putting their money where their mouth is and constructing new properties to satisfy every aspect of your vacationing needs, and many of them are opening just in time for a winter getaway. Here are the four newest:

The Boutique
The village of Playa Del Carmen opened is located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, about 40 miles south of Cancun, and its white powder beaches and charming, lively downtown have long been a day trip for resort escapees. Until recently, though, there have been no luxury hotels available to cater to those wishing to have the small-town, authentic feel throughout their destination. On the heels of the Morgan Hotel Group’s Las Palapas, Desires Hotels has opened Acanto, 21 spacious suites with modern wood-lined interiors and hammock-bedecked outdoor space. All guests have pool access, fully-stocked kitchens, and a prime location just a block from the beach and half a block from 5th Avenue, the main attraction packed with shopping, restaurants, and bars.

The Behemoth
Melia Hotels International, proprietors of several major resorts in Mexico including Melia Cabo Real and Gran Melia Cancun, has brought two its all-inclusive Paradisus concepts to Mexico. The Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda and the Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla are both in the Riviera Maya, Mexico’s hottest  new resort area. The Esmerelda is family-oriented, with a special concierge for family activities and a milk-and-cookie turn-down service, while the 394-suite La Perla is adults only, with butler service, and an exclusive pool, bar and restaurant, in addition to access to the common area, El Zocalo, where 10 restaurants and bars, an activities center, a theater, a ballroom and meeting space, a spa and health club, and a beach club are located.

The Baller
Iberostar is no stranger to these shores—their new oceanfront location, the Iberostar Cancun in the former Hilton Cancun, is their ninth in Mexico. While they maximize the advantages of their location (all 426 rooms have ocean views, and the hotel has a significant slice of beachfront in addition to seven pools and four restaurants) this isn’t a resort where you’ll want to lie around and do nothing. There’s ample opportunity to exercise your athletic instincts, with cycling, table tennis, and yoga classes offered every day. Additionally, two tennis courts, a full-size professional soccer field, a spa and gym facility, and Cancun’s only 18-hole golf course allow you plenty of opportunities to get active on your own.

The Big Kids
As you might expect of a resort named Secrets, the AMResorts property is adults-only, with a casual all-inclusive style (no wristbands, we promise) that gives you plenty of freedom to roam. Located in Huatulco, on the Pacific Coast, the 399 suites overlook Conejos Bay, including the swim-up suites and those with a terrace Jacuzzi—a nice touch for winter visitors. There are eight reservation-free restaurants and six bars and lounges, all designed to help you kick back and relax—we’d suggest going off campus to try out the nearby Tangolunda golf course and the Copalita Eco-Archaeological Park, and then come back to indulge at the Pevonia signature spa, featuring the botanical-rich skincare line. 

Maroma Resort & Spa Launches Mexican Immersion Program

Resort travelers to Mexico used to arrive expecting three things: sun, sand, and tequila-infused cocktails. But now that the Riviera Maya is attracting a more sophisticated breed of traveler, they’re looking for a real, authentic experience along with their R&R.

The new Mexican Immersion program at Maroma Resort & Spa answers that call, with new programs spread around the resort that encourage a deeper understanding of the local culture. For one, while most visitors to Mexico naturally enjoy the cuisine, the resort’s La Cantina restaurant is offering a new experience called “Noches de Cantina” that features botanas, home-style dishes like fideo seco (dry noodles with chipotle, avocado and fresh cheese), roasted suckling lamb from Monterrey, along with home-brewed beers, tequilas and mezcal. Spa-side, the Mayan Temazcal experience is a deeply detailed ritual performed at dusk inside a sweat lodge-type structure, for detoxification and deep relaxation.

All around the resort, the Spanish Language Immersion program will totally change the guests experience for those choosing to engage. A special bracelet will signal to the resort staff that they should communicate with you only in Spanish—though if your college grammar is a little rusty, Spanish-English dictionaries and a list of common phrases are placed in every room. Get some practice on a private walking tour of Maroma, where staff will discuss the socio-cultural significance of the symbols and icons placed around the resort.

Maroma’s Mexican Immersion programme costs from $240 per person, and can be added to any holiday at the hotel. The price includes a Temazcal spa experience, an evening at Noches de Cantina, including a special menu of Botanas and a tasting of Mezcal and beer, and a tour of Maroma and the Spanish Language Immersion program. Nightly rates at Maroma Resort and Spa start from $575, based on the two sharing a Deluxe Garden View Room, including breakfast. 

Robot Discovers 2,000-Year-Old Tunnel in Mexico Is Man-Made

I wouldn’t be surprised if a robot was on the cover of next week’s Star magazine. These advanced, friendly machines seem to be all over the news. It turns out robots will be the ones giving us sponge baths when we’re in retirement homes. The US military will have a robot pilot for their next flying vehicle. And the newest robot is a metal gastronomist who can identify what he has just eaten. Apparently, humans taste like bacon. Robots are also doing all our dirty work. Only yesterday, archaeologists sent a bot equipped with a small camera into a 2,000-year old tunnel, just to see if it was safe to be explored. According to the robot, battery-operated thumbs up all around.

The ancient tunnel is in Teotihuacan under the ruins of a temple. It appears to have a perfectly carved arch roof and seems safe enough to enter. Historians say the tunnel’s entrance was intentionally closed off between AD 200 and 250. To me, that’s a red flag, but inquiring minds need to know what’s in the friggin’ tunnel.

The tunnel is clearly manmade, according to the archaeologists, and is believed to lead to burial chambers. Says Sergio Gomez: “In some places you can even see the marks of the tools the people of Teotihuacan used to make it.”

I can also see a prequel to 2012: Tunnel Digging Gone Bad.

Mundialista: All the Good (Football) Songs

There’s an old Tom Lehrer song that goes, “Though he may have won all the battles, we had all the good songs.” Although at this World Cup it’s been difficult to hear fans singing over the incessant vuvuzelas, I was reminded of this important factor during Argentina’s win over Mexico the other day when some of the non-Argentine Argentina fans asked me what the songs we were singing meant. So for all the Bangladeshi, Chinese, and Yankee Messi fanatics, here are the lyrics, transcribed. Some of the tunes riff on classic Mexican songs like Cielito Lindo, others taunt the Mexican fans by referencing popular Mexican TV shows starring a fellow called Chespirito, or refer to the fact that Mexico’s time in South Africa is coming to an abrupt end. Another employs the classy anal-rape-as-sporting-victory metaphor, and yet another just talks unadulterated shit. Please turn off all pagers, cell phones, and vuvuzelas: the football taunts are after the jump.

Mexico Taunts

Tomala vos damela a mi, hoy no te salva, ni el Chapulin.

Ponelo al Chavo la puta que te pario… Ponelo al Chavo la puta que te pario…

Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores porque cantando se alegran cielito lindo los corazones

Saca el pasaje la puta que te pario Saca el pasaje la puta que te pario

Mira, mira, mira Sacale una foto Se vuelven al D.F. con el culo roto

Otra vez sera… Otra vez sera… Otra vez sera Mexicano…. Otra vez sera…

Todd P. Throws a Party

To just about anyone who went to an underground rock show in Brooklyn last year, he’s known simply as Todd P. His full surname, though, is Patrick, which shares a root with the word patron– and if independent music has a patron, if avid but disaffected youths in New York City have a crusader, it’s Todd Patrick. Purveyor of all-ages, low-cover shows at venues like Market Hotel, Silent Barn, and Monster Island Basement, Brooklyn’s DIY impresario hopes with his latest venture to spread his influence farther and wider than ever before.

After four years of throwing a free concert in Austin, Tx., concurrent with the bank-breaking South by Southwest festival, this year, Todd P. is putting on his own large-scale event in Monterrey, Mexico, MtyMx, which concludes tonight. Located at a mountainside drive-in theater overlooking the city, the three-day, $30 festival features many of the bands from SXSW —including Brooklyn’s own Liars, Thee Oh Sees and Air Waves- as well as a number of Mexican indie bands like Los Llamarada, Los Fancy Free and Quiero Club.

Patrick’s current mission is twofold: to include everyone, not just those who can afford it, in a culture of free expression and euphoric vibes, and to overcome America’s strict immigration laws and passive ignorance about Mexico in order to unite the independent music scenes in the two countries. He expects about 80 percent of MtyMx attendees to be Mexican. A few days before he left for Austin, where he still planned to throw a free show before his own extravaganza, I met Patrick in his modest apartment-cum-office in Long Island City, Queens. Leaning in, forearms on his knees, perpetually adamant, he described what he envisioned for the festival and what he felt that he was up against.

You’ve said in the past that the people you reach in Brooklyn are most often those who are dedicated to going to shows on a regular basis, and you wanted to throw a big one-off to reach those kids who might only go out a few times a year. The kids that most need to be involved, the kids whose lives would most be enhanced and improved, are the ones who are outsiders to this world, this kind of genuine subculture that exists in every city, including Brooklyn, and surrounds all this music. Those kids are the ones who right now, before they’re turned on, are the most frightened. They’re the ones who don’t think they’re cool, and so they’re intimidated to go to underground events that are in certain neighborhoods. So yeah, that was definitely always a concern, was to do something that appealed to kids who hadn’t come out of their shell yet.

Will a festival in Monterrey be able to achieve that? I feel like MtyMx will do that for Mexican people. This festival by Mexican standards, by any standards, is ridiculously cheap, and we made it really, really, really cheap because we wanted regular Mexican kids to come. So $30 for three days or $15 a day is — it’s not nothing, but it’s something that’s attainable to these kids.

Where is that money going to go? It seems like just the operational costs… Well, we’re also selling alcohol. We also have a city of 300 tents. We’re also going to rent an entire hotel and re-rent those rooms at a higher rate. I’m not a martyr. I don’t do this to lose money. This may be contrary to what people think I would usually say, but you can’t present an example of the way you want other people to do things and have it be a money-losing system. Who would want to be a martyr? We want this to be affordable, and we want to do it without excluding people, but basically I want to prove that you can be profitable without being ugly.

When you talk about Mexican indie rock, do you mean indie like we know it here? In other countries, which have smaller, like, cute and cuddly scenes, whether it’s Canada or Mexico or Australia or wherever, you could actually start out as a band that’s real. A bunch of dudes who know each other and practice in their basement and put out little shitty shows in coffee shops or whatever, and if you work with that, and then you compromise just a little bit and make slightly watered-down music, you can dream of being on the radio. In the States, if you’re good, and real, you are never, ever going to be on the radio. But I’ll actually be contrarian here and say I prefer our system. The reason I prefer our system is that what you have in a place like Canada or a place like Mexico is that people who are talented, good songwriters are audibly shitty.

And here you can get by, to an extent, without compromise. Those people don’t aim for the top. They aim for an audience of like-minded people, and they make uncompromising music. Whereas if you go to a place like Canada, you get stuff like the kind of shit that Arcade Fire’s putting out these days. Or any of those people, Broken Social Scene. I’m just saying, the stuff’s pretty toothless. It’s just pretty bougie. So my point then is that in Mexico there isn’t a divide between super-principled and super-commercial bands like there is here. It’s because the scene is smaller there, and it’s easier to go up the ladder.

image How did you come into contact with the Mexican indie rock scene? I started meeting all these kids who were aware of American music, and I think the reason they were aware was the internet. There’s always been this divide because most American bands are afraid to go there, and most Mexican bands are unable to come to our country. So it’s been hard to build the bridges between scenes, to make it all part of the same scene. It’s almost irrelevant in the States whether a band is from Canada or from here because Canada’s border barely matters. From Mexico, there’s just a really firm blockade. Especially for middle-class people, who are the people who form indie rock bands.

Do you think there’s a distinctive difference between the music we would hear coming out of Mexico and what we hear in New York? What I’ll say is that Mexico is a modern place with people just as educated as us, if not more so. Why the fuck don’t we listen to what they have to say? I’m not going to predict what those people are going to say. What I am going to tell you is that those people are intelligent and cultured and educated. And tuned into the conversation that’s happening in the artistic world. The fact that in this country they’re treated like podunk peasants who shouldn’t be taken seriously is incredibly insulting to those people. We should be reexamining our entire vision of that part of the world.

How will this show fit into what’s happening now in Mexican music? I think that by putting on a really big festival that doesn’t have any of that sponsorship shit, that is curated exclusively according to taste, we will prove in practice to all these sort of nascent fans of this genre in Mexico that this is actually way more fun and way more cool than all the shit that they’re being fed by the marketing machine in their country. And that goes for the American community as well. I went to a show about a year ago in Brooklyn put on by a promotion company that doubles as a marketing company. There was actually a section of the venue where they had put down carpet and they had these space age-looking chairs, and they were literally selling cell phones at the fucking concert. So bands playing were bands that were coming out of the underground scene; they were legitimate bands that were important to people in terms of their sense of community and their sense of what their ideas were. And yet there was honestly – not just one beer brand or one banner – they had projections behind the band about the cell phone company. So you end up getting a situation where to put these shows on, it becomes the norm to include these marketing companies that put that level of cash on the line. So the bands start asking for more money, and that becomes part of the landscape of putting on shows.

Which excludes more people. It excludes more people, for sure, but it also ends up defining top-down instead of bottom-up what bands get big, what shows happen or don’t happen and what trends are new and happening. When the steerage of the machine of the indie rock community is controlled by the marketing companies — because they have access to dollars and access to venues — and the bands have gotten kind of addicted to those dollar signs, well then the scene suffers.

Can you recall a certain band or a certain moment in your life that turned you on to live music? The first show that I really saw at a venue was when I saw Unrest. They were opening for The Breeders at this little tiny venue. I snuck in — you had to be 18, and I was 16. They were amazing. And that was probably the first time I was ever exposed to indie rock in that genre. That really changed me and from there I just wanted to go to little shows. I’ve been to a few bigger shows since then. I listened to the Pixies play. They opened for U2 at the Cowboys’ stadium, and it was just awful. I saw The Breeders play at that club with Unrest and it was fucking awesome. And about two years later I saw them play at this amphitheater in Dallas, and it was possibly the suckiest, most boring experience.

You think the band just hates it? Well, it’s like you’re not really playing a show, you’re making a little movie. They say that when the Greeks would act out the old plays, because there was no amplification, they would wear, like crazy hats, and be like, [booming] “Oh dearest me, what happened?” I think it’s not such a far shot from that when you think about those big rock shows. They’re like a little circus-y version of a show.

MtyMx will be big. We’re expecting like a thousand, two thousand people tops, and you can walk right up to the stage. It’s as informal as it gets. I really am opposed to this artificial divide between audience and band. Luckily none of these people are big giant superstars. Maybe Andrew W.K. But I want people to realize that the people who make the music they like are themselves regular people just like them. ‘Cause then maybe they’ll realize that they can make that music, too.