At this Mexican resort, getting drunk is part of the wellness program

(Bloomberg) – Lisa Harper would like you to know that in a post-pandemic world, where you only live once, rejecting mezcalitas and cheladas in an attempt to induce a hangover and then cure it with tacos barbacoa falls squarely within the definition of holistic wellness.

“When I talk about wellness, I’m not talking about deprivation or hard work,” says Harper, the former CEO of retail brands as varied as Gymboree and Hot Topic, and current CEO of Belk, the department based in North Carolina. store company with some 300 stores in the United States. “I talk about it in terms of experiences that provide that much-needed mental and creative reset,” she says.

Getting drunk in Mexico? It can do it.


Harper first landed in the cluster of fishing towns surrounding Todos Santos in the mid-1990s, determined to cure herself of burnout by temporarily settling into a humble palapa (beach hut) while seeking a creative revitalization. She was so inspired by the culture and the land – its physical beauty, the food and, yes, the drink – that she decided to buy a small plot of land there. She returned home determined to turn it into a lavish wellness retreat called Rancho Pescadero, which she then designed herself. It opened with 12 rooms in 2009 and quickly developed a loyal following.

Now the resort is set to emerge in September from a four-year renovation that makes it an all-new property, with 103 beachfront suites on 30 acres and an intentionally indulgent approach to wellness, making Harper something of a anti Gwyneth Paltrow. Instead of cutting out booze and focusing on detox diets and boot camp classes, the hotel combines a 25,000-square-foot “wellness lodge” with activities that connect guests with traditions generations-old locals (think cocoa ceremonies and apothecary sessions that make personalized use of the extensive medicinal herb garden).

Nothing is more emblematic of this unique approach to wellness than the Hangover experience – not something you’ll find at a typical spa retreat, but a cornerstone of the resort’s new programming. It will not only focus on the drink, but also on a dish Mexicans use as a hangover cure, cochinita pibil, and all the ways its preparation and consumption can have a restorative effect. According to Harper, the ceremonial process of cooking barbacoa, from wrapping the lamb in banana leaves to how it is lowered into an underground hearth for a slow roast overnight, was considered by the ancients Mayas as a way to commune with the Earth – and healing the heart and mind.

But at Rancho Pescadero, learning how to make the dish won’t be as easy as signing up for a cooking class. (After all, argues Harper, you can’t replicate this recipe exactly in your own kitchen at home, so what’s the point?) While guests can participate in the cooking process, they’ll do so primarily by picking chili peppers and turning them over. in salsa and accompanying sauces. They will also be able to prepare tinctures to combine with the next day’s hangover cure using some of the aforementioned medicinal herbs, make tortillas by hand using a traditional comal oven and tell stories or listen to music. music around a common fire. All of these activities play with ideas of manual labor, engagement with Mexican culture, and building community, cornerstones of mental well-being.

“The idea is that you engage in rituals,” says Harper. “We want people to feel like they’re living life but also participating in something that carries a historical legacy and feels, for lack of a better word, authentic,” she says. “You form a community with new people, discover drinks and foods you may never have heard of before, and deal with yourself in a whole different way.”

Getting drunk is, of course, built into the premise, even if it’s done on purpose. The open bar portion of the experience includes lesser-known traditional drinks like pulque, which mixes agave sap with fermented pineapple peel. A cultural ambassador will be on hand to incorporate elements of indigenous and historical significance, such as why pulque was considered sacred by the ancestors of many locals.

And although the cooking and drinking takes place in the evening, the eating really takes place the next morning, after the alcohol damage has been done. “We’ll be waking up the guests at a deliberate hour, somewhere after nine,” Harper said. “We will kindly come to their room with the very first phase of their cure, which will be one of the tinctures [made the night before], or something that would help them rise to the occasion. And then, she says, they’ll be escorted to the hotel’s restaurant, where a cochinita unveiling ceremony takes place around a generous communal table.

“Of course, we plan to end it all with more booze,” laughs Harper, adding that the experience will bond with strangers or also serve as really effective team building at corporate retreats. “The bartender is like our hotel doctor, they know exactly what to serve to make you feel better and not worse.”

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