What is Xtabentun? What does it taste like? These were my first questions when I came across it for the first time.
I was intrigued. When I thought I knew all about Mexican beverages, this Mayan honey liqueur showed up.
Xtabentun is aniseed-flavored, herbal, and has a pure honey taste.
This digestive produced in Yucatán, which comes from the plant of the same name, is sweetened with melipona bee honey.
It means much more to the area’s inhabitants than just a drink acclaimed by tourists.
Xtabentun: Deep Mayan roots
The meaning of Xtabentún comes from its origins in a Mayan legend. Many years ago, in the Mayab (as Yucatan was then known), there lived two sisters: Xtabay and Utz Cole’l.
Both were very beautiful, but the first one had a bad reputation because everyone talked about her “special” taste in men.
They called her a sinner. In turn, Utz Cole’l was perceived by everyone as the good and pure sister, who was gentle with everyone and always had good intentions.
But she was not like that. Despite what people talked about them, the reality was that Xtabay was the kind-hearted one who helped people who were sick or in need, no matter how small.
She just wasn’t very interested in disproving the rumors about her actions.
Utz Cole’l went through life showing two faces. On the outside, she seemed the most virtuous, but she was envious and disliked poor people.
One day Xtabay disappeared. They did not hear from her for days until one morning, everyone in the village began to smell the delicate scent of flowers.
When they went to her house, they found her dead but fragrant with the same scent. Utz Cole’l told them that the smell was not hers, that it was better to bury her.
They did so, and as the days passed, they discovered that white flowers were growing on her grave that gave off the same scent as the one in the house.
Finally, everyone realized that Xtabay was a good person.
When Utz Cole’l died, a thorny plant grew over her grave, and the atmosphere around her smelled terrible.
Since then, the Mayans decided to make a liqueur in honor of Xtabay.
They called it Xtabentún, in honor of the posthumous flower that gave off the delicate fragrance, and it is paired with the belief that, when drunk, it is possible to find love.
It is made by fermenting the honey that melipona bees produce from the plant called Xtabentún, to which a little anise is added, and then it is distilled by hand with cane rum.
What does Xtabentun taste like?
The flavor of the Xtabentun is reminiscent of herbs and honey.
So when mixed with other ingredients, it is no longer necessary to use complex bitters or special garnishes to add aromas to the preparation.
On the contrary, from just giving an endearing meaning to the legend, Yucatecans now also take pride in the diversification of the consumption of this liqueur.
If you go to Yucatán (even to other states of the peninsula), you will surely be offered to drink it after a heavy meal (and what a necessity, given the gastronomy of Yucatán), straight from a shot glass.
About melipona bees for Xtabentun
Another key factor to remember is that the role of honey bees is irreplaceable and considered sacred by the Maya.
In pre-Hispanic times they were so revered that they held between four and six ceremonies in their honor every year.
What surprised the native peoples was that one of the main characteristics of these animals was that, even without a sting, they would only bite whatever posed a threat to their colony to defend it.
And they always died in the attempt.
Nevertheless, they managed to produce between one and one and a half liters of honey per year.
Now you know: if you see a bottle of this Yucatecan digestive, don’t hesitate to try it.
It will be an extraordinary organoleptic experience, and you will contribute to keeping the legend alive.
How to drink Xtabentun
Trying Xtabentun is quite an experience, as you can enjoy it as a shot, on the rocks, or mixed with a soft drink.
It is also ideal for mixing with lemon juice and honey and enjoying it in a fresh coconut.
If you have a bottle of Xtabentún at home and don’t know what to do with it, you can try one of these cocktails:
- 2 oz. white rum
- 1/2 oz. Xtabentun
- Juice of half a grapefruit
- Juice half a lemon
- Mix all ingredients
- Add ice to a cocktail shaker glass, shake
- 2 oz. Tequila
- 1/2 oz. Xtabentun
- a dash of simple syrup
- 3 oz. citrus blend (lime, orange, and grapefruit)
- Rim your preferred glass with salt
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, pour in Tequila, Xtabentun, simple syrup, and citrus juices
- Fill the glass with fresh ice
- Shake well and strain
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have other recipes or ideas, please share them in the comments below. Salud!