Everyone knows that Mexico is famous for its tequila but on the Yucatan peninsula, Xtabentun, a local liqueur made in Meridais is king. Pronounced ish-tah-ben-TOON, Xtabentun’s original recipe is based on balche, a magical potion consumed at ancient Mayan rituals made from water, honey and tree bark. In Mayan, the word Xtabentún literally means “vines growing on stone”. Since the strong flavor did not appeal to the Spanish conquistadores, they introduced anise and removed the tree bark and corn.
Today this liqueur is made by naturally fermenting a mixture of anise and honey produced from the nectar of xtabentún flowers in Rum. The resulting drink has a pale yellow hue with a more pronounced honey flavor on the palate followed by anise and is 30% alcohol.
Xtabentun can be sipped neat, served chilled over ice, or becomes a Mayan coffee when mixed with one shot of tequila and fresh roasted coffee. Leave out the java and add a half lime instead and you have a “Maya margarita”. When dining throughout Mexico, especially on the peninsula, you’ll notice that this liqueur is a popular aperitif to sip after all the courses including dessert are finished. A great digestive to soothe your stomach after all those jalapenos and chilis!
photo courtesy of Steve Mirsky