Tequilera Audrey Formisano wants to show guests the culture of tequila, and the beauty of the place it comes from.
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When you hear "sommelier" you might automatically think "wine," and when you hear "tequila," you might think, "margaritas!" or "shots!" or "ouch!" Audrey Formisano, the tequila sommelier at  the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, is on a mission to change that. Formisano moved from France to Mexico to learn Spanish, and soon fell in love with tequila and all its complexities. She ended up studying with the Mexican Association of Tequila, and becoming a tequila evangelist. "Usually people are thinking about tequila to get drunk, but it's so much more than that," Formisano said. "We are in the cradle of tequila here. We often say Jalisco is Mexico—the birthplace of tequila, mariachi, and charros. We wanted to show guests the culture of tequila."

Audrey Formisano
Credit: Bronwyn Knight

At the Marriott, Formisano leads tequila tastings and encourages the tequila-curious to sip, explore the difference between various expressions—blanco, reposado, añejo—and to try pairing the tequila with food, as you would wine. That means no salt, and no lime, and while it's fine to serve it from a wine glass or a champagne flute, Formisano's personal recommendation for devotees is to use Riedel Ouverture Tequila glasses. "The best way to drink tequila is basically the way you like it," Formisano said. "My personal opinion is that tequila should be sipped neat, with a glass of water on the side."

Ceviche & Tequila bar
Credit: Courtesy of Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa

The Marriott Puerto Vallarta, where Formisano serves as tequilera as well as a restaurant and bar manager, not only boasts more than 160 kinds of tequila (and 20 kinds of mezcal) at its Ceviche & Tequila bar, it also has its own agave garden and its own line of tequila. That's all guided by the careful hand of Formisano, who wants to share Puerto Vallarta both as a beautiful vacation destination and a part of Jalisco, just 100 miles from the town of Tequila.

If you're just getting started pairing, Formisano recommends trying the blanco with seafood, where the freshness plays well. "Blanco is the passport of tequila," Formisano said. "I like to drink it chilled, particularly in the summer." For a reposado, try chicken, and for an añejo, chocolate. Formisano's preferred pairing for anything in the ultra-premium category? "A nice cigar," she said. 

tequila bottles
Credit: Courtesy of Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa

The Marriott's own brand of tequila, CasaMagna, launched in 2006, is only available at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta. "The whole point was education for the guests," Formisano said. It's the only Marriott property in the world to have its own tequila, and it's a source of pride: Both the bottles and labels are handmade locally. Formisano walks interested guests through the process of how agave is grown, nurtured, and processed into the spirit, as well as leading tastings and one-on-one sessions.

"People are taking tequila much more seriously than they used to," Formisano said. "Just like wine, tequila is an open book. You'll never learn anything." But if you're interested in getting started, Formisano is the person to talk to.