- Audrey Formisano, 47, is the “tequilier” at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa in Mexico.
- Her day starts around 2:30 p.m. and ends at 2 a.m., and no two days on the job are alike, she said.
- Here’s how she got here, as told to writer Perri Ormont Blumberg.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Audrey Formisano, a 47-year-old tequila sommelier at Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa in Mexico, about her job. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I grew up in Marseilles, France, and earned my degree in hotel management and my sommelier accreditation.
I wanted to learn Spanish and was also very interested in the culture, so I moved to Puerto Vallarta and started to work for the Marriott in February 2003, where I began as a supervisor for one restaurant, then the lobby bar, then slowly several of the restaurant venues at the same time. I was responsible for overseeing the wine cellar and earned my tequila certification in 2006 when the resort developed a tequila education program for its guests.
I received certifications from the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) and the Mexican Association of Tequila, and I’m now a manager for all the restaurants at the resort.
I’m fluent in Spanish but still learn a new expression every day. For me, it’s important that I speak the language because I also do tequila tasting with Spanish-speaking guests. I just did one with 100 Mexican guests, and they’re a more demanding audience because tequila is their national drink.
The tequila sommelier position didn’t exist before me
When I first arrived in Mexico, I was ashamed that I didn’t have any knowledge of tequila, but I had a lot of thirst to know about this spirit that was such a huge part of the culture and the locals sipped like a fine cognac. I was also training waiters and my supervisors to know more about tequila and wine as well.
I think what made me stand out was my traveling experience, but also if you like what you do it’s easy to stand out. People notice that and trust you more.
The resort’s special tequila education program was designed specifically to help educate guests about tequila’s home state of Jalisco, the region where the resort is located. Guests can learn the art of sipping fine tequila as the locals do by booking a complimentary tequila tasting or a private experience led by me.
A private tequila tasting starts at 599 pesos, or around $28.88 per person. We taste premium tequila and our chef prepares small bites for the pairing. I’ve also done a variety of pairing events from full dinners and vegan food to desserts and chocolate.
The resort also developed its own proprietary brand of tequila called CasaMagna and is one of only a few resorts in the world that has one. The idea came from the general manager of the resort in 2004.
A typical day for me doesn’t exist because in the hotel industry every day is different
Before the workday starts, I typically hang out with my son, who was born in Puerto Vallarta, or help my parents who are retired here with whatever they need to do.
My workday normally starts at 2:30 p.m. I make sure everything is running smoothly at all the resort’s restaurants, I attend a meeting if I have to, I try to make sure I know as much about our guests as I can, and then we see where the day takes me. This can range from hosting a private tequila tasting or a paired dinner for groups to overseeing our wine-cellar collection. My day usually ends around 2 a.m., depending on the occupancy of the resort.
I once did a tequila tasting for 350 people at one time, and I was very nervous
It was taped, and my picture was on a big screen behind me. Their dinner was running late, so I had a lot of time to speak — usually time is limited because dinner is served after my tasting.
The audience was very nice to me and I received a round of applause at the end, followed by picture-taking, and I felt like a movie star.
I do small tastings, too, to win more confidence in myself, as the best way to recommend a product is to know everything about it and to enjoy it yourself.
I’ve also appeared on a telenovela serving wine, and it was quite interesting to be on national TV.
I still have a lot to learn as the industry evolves
The drinks of the moment are mezcal and raicilla, so I try to read, ask questions, and learn as much as I can about trending spirits. These two drinks are what I call tequila’s cousins, and they’re also made from agave.
If you want to break into the hospitality food and beverage sector, a degree is always a helpful start, but experience and always keeping in touch with what’s happening in the industry is important. Spending time in the service industry is helpful to learn how to educate guests.
My advice for somebody to do my job is to love the product and believe in it. Specifically with tequila, you must be ready to defend it and let the people change their minds about it and appreciate it a little more. I also recommend spending time reading about it in places like Quien and Tecno Agave, joining Facebook groups, asking questions, trying different varieties, and playing with it through pairings.