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What is Xtabentún?



Xtabentun on ice

Numinosity, Flickr

Xtabentún is a type of liquor found throughout Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Its origins can be traced to Balché, a ceremonial liquor used by the Maya people made from corn and the bark of the Balché tree.

Translated from the Maya language, Xtabentun means “flower that grows on stone.” The drink is made from honey produced by a rare native bee that draws nectar from the flower of the same name, a sweet-smelling vine. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived on the peninsula, it’s said they disliked the strong flavor of Balché, and added anise and honey instead, creating what is known as Xtabentún today.

The liquor is usually served straight, cold, although ice can be added. It has a yellowish hue and a fairly strong flavor. Some restaurants in the Yucatan add shots of Xtabentún to coffee, which tends to involve much theatrical pouring of coffee from great heights and setting the liquor aflame: a dramatic ritual worth witnessing!

One of the most popular brands of Xtabentún is D’Aristi, which sells for between $10-$15 at liquor stores throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. The family-owned D’Aristi distillery is also a hacienda in Merida that is open to the public for tours.

Xtabentún is a great alternative to tequila…give it a try next time you visit the Yucatan!

Pronunciation: shtab-en-TOON or ish-tab-en-TOON

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