Calling all craft brew and distillery people in the northern Yucatan peninsula. If you want to have a fun weekend away from the Riviera Maya or Merida, and you want to go discover a real micro-brew/distillery operation in the jungle, then pack an over night bag and head down to Costa De Cocos Hotel for a couple days. Or as we call it around here, the “Craft Brew and Distilling Mecca of Southern Quintana Roo”. All craft hooch disciples should make the journey at least once and pay homage to these incredible brews and spirits. Seriously! Great craft beer and whiskey, along with the jungle ambiance that reminds all of the way it used to be on the north side of the peninsula. A weekend trip to Xcalak will become one of those, “why have we not done this before” things for many. The craft drinks alone will make sure of that!
Costa de Cocos’ proprietors, David and Ilana Randal, have been running the place for almost 30 years, long before paved roads and power came to the area, and has in the last 5 years or so, began to distill whiskey and brew beers, that are today, perfected, and real craft gems. The “moonshine”, or corn whiskey, was a natural fit for the area, with corn being a readily available product in Mexico. He began making hobby whiskey as the rise in popularity, as well as a rise in quality, of craft made moonshine took off in the US. The hobby soon turned into a passion, and a really fine corn whiskey was the result. Today he has flavors, like his jalapeno , butterscotch, or apple pie flavors, as well as his signature anejo, or aged whiskey. This is as smooth as whiskey gets, and a truly fine craft spirit.
He now has new aging buildings, with oak barrels full of whiskey, aging to different dates, so get ready. My single malt scotch drinkers say it is as nice as anything they drink.
David then decided to get into hobby beer brewing, and just like the whiskey, he developed some top notch brews that rival the best in US micros. He makes a pale ale, a red ale and a black porter that is one of my favorites, and also happens to be on this beer snob’s top 10 all-time list. Yes, it is that good. If you like micro-brewed beer, it is worth the drive.
He now also makes a martini quality vodka that rivals the high end martini vodkas anywhere. This premium vodka, as well as his aged whiskey, are now available also in artisan hand blown, decorative bottles that you will keep long after the last drop of the artisan spirits it came filled with. The distillery now also produces rum, as well as pineapple rum and vodka! All this, and David is playing with new twists still to come.
Xcalak is about a half days drive from Cancun or Merida. It is located within the same marine preserve designation as Banco Chinchorro, making the waters around it, some of the most pristine in all of Mexico. Even shallow depths in the area are alive with marine life, from fish to coral, all healthy and easy to access with just a mask and fins. Nothing like the shallow reefs today in the northern parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, and much like they were 40 or 50 years ago. The same for the jungle area along Xcalak’s shoreline. A simple walk along the beach road will produce 50 to 100 species of birds alone, and no telling what other natural phenomena. Take your camera!
Costa De Cocos Hotel has all you need for a few days away. The cabanas are rustic but top notch, with comfortable beds, great hot water showers and breezes right off the ocean. They offer world class fly fishing service, with lots of articles about their place from newspapers and magazines globally. They also have diving and snorkel trips to some of the area’s most interesting reefs and estuaries between Mexico and Belize.
The restaurant has great food and a pretty good menu for such a small operation. The real treat though are the high quality brews and whisky. The Mango Moonshine Company is the name of the brewery/distillery operation and David and his guys do the actual production and aging at a facility about a kilometer up the road.
Look for all of David’s products in the Riviera Maya area now that word of his products have begun to leak out of the jungle. A handful of outlets now sell Mango Moonshine’s products in their restaurants and craft drink establishments in the Riviera Maya. Not aware of any in Merida yet, but I’m sure they will be there soon.
So if you live up north in the big city; you know, the Riviera Maya, Cancun or Merida, you really should treat yourself to a few days of jungle ambiance, and enjoy some relaxation, quiet and a lot of good food and craft made drink at the same time. Do a little diving, fishing or whatever in the process, but most important, enjoy the local brew and spirits, a real treat for the craft drink person.