Born in Mexico City, on Leap Day (February 29), it is unsurprising that Jessica “Gin” Montserrat Reyes Jiménez Castro has jumped ahead to make an impact in mixology. After graduating from one of Mexico's first molecular cocktail programs, Gin has risen through the ranks in bars, restaurants, and hotels in Mexico City, Cancun, and is now at the luxurious Vista Encantada Spa Resort and Residences in Cabo San Lucas. We caught up with Gin to distill her experience in the male-dominated industry of Mexican mixology, debate mezcal versus tequila, and get some cocktail recipes!
Before we get into it, I love that your nickname is Gin and you’re a bartender. How long has that been your nickname and did it predate your bartending?
Thanks so much, this was a nickname given to me by my partner. We both love gin and he started calling me that and it stuck. It's now a fun conversation starter with friends and guests.
How perfect! Tell us how did get into mixology?
I grew up in Mexico City and after graduating from college with a degree in arts & letters, my passion for food and beverage led me to one of the first molecular cocktail courses taught by Santiago Diez Malpica at the University of the Cloister of Sor Juana. I loved it! I stayed in Mexico City to develop my skills as a bartender at Taberna Luciferina, well-known for its innovative cocktail concepts, before joining the private events team at the Casa Lamm, a renowned cultural center.
Seeking personal and professional growth, I went to Europe to learn English and deepen my knowledge; traveling through London, Italy, Paris, and Edinburgh, picking up techniques and ingredients unique to each region. When I returned to Mexico City, I joined the team at Hotel Brick, bringing so many new skills and ideas from abroad.
During the pandemic, I was invited to help develop the bar concepts at ATELIER Playa Mujeres, a five-star adults-only all-inclusive resort near Cancun, where I specialized in craft mixology at the hotel’s main bar. With a taste of resort living, I decided to move to Cabo San Lucas to create a mixology program for the bars and restaurants at Vista Encantada Spa Resort and Residences, a beautiful resort best known for having one of the largest rooftop infinity pools in Mexico, likely why it nabbed a spot on Trip Advisor list of the best Rooftop Hotels in the world.
Sounds amazing. So, Mexican mezcal and tequila are having a moment, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis as of 2021, agave-based spirits are the third-largest spirits category in the US, behind vodka and whisky, overtaking bourbon and rum for the first time. Why do you think this is?
I think mezcal and tequila both offer versatile flavors that are pleasing to drink straight or in a cocktail. The purity of these Mexican spirits helps avoid a hangover, so they can be enjoyed without the drinker being affected too much.
Is mezcal becoming as popular as tequila? What is your favorite mezcal cocktail?
Yes, mezcal is definitely on the rise and I hope it continues, because of the biological diversity of agave -- we're talking about 150 species of endemic plants being explored. With that amount, we can only imagine the opportunity and experience offered by drinking it straight. Mezcal enjoyed in a cocktail with Mexican ingredients that complement its flavors is an ideal way to familiarize yourself with the taste, but as for me, I prefer mezcal... solo.
Can you tell me more about the challenges you have faced behind the bar as a woman?
Without a doubt, my talents have been devalued by others due to being female. We must demand respect based on our results, making way for future generations of women in this field.
What changes would you like to see for women in the beverage industry?
We are already seeing these changes. There are more female bartenders and bar managers. However, we must continue reaching out to and amplifying women in vulnerable and marginalized positions who aspire to join the industry, beginning with education, then continually sharing success stories to inspire them to further their ambitions.
What essentials do you feel any home bar should have?
I always keep a variety of spirits and wines -- you never know which tastes people have -- but definitely, I'll always stock a tequila reposado, a good espadín or tepeztate mezcal, and a gin. As for tools, the shaker and the jigger are indispensable for a cocktail, and finally, a good bar book like Cocktail Codex, which features basic recipes and formulas that make a great starting point.
Do you mind sharing some cocktail recipes with us?
As I prefer Mezcal straight up, here are three tequila-based cocktails I think you’ll enjoy.
1 oz. Clase Azul Tequila
1 oz. St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz. Triple sec
Mix all ingredients and serve in stem glass. Garnish with 2 bougainvillea flowers
Luz de Agave
2 oz. Patrón Silver Tequila
1 oz. Creme de Cassis
1 oz. blueberry juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
Mix all ingredients and serve in old fashioned glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and dried cucumber.
2 oz. Cazadores Blanco Tequila
1 oz. grapefruit juice
3 sage leaves
1/2 oz. lime juice
Pinch of hibiscus salt
Mix all ingredients and serve in old fashioned glass. Garnish with a hibiscus salt rim and top with sage leaves and a grapefruit slice.