Bertha González Nieves’s San Miguel de Allende
The “First Lady of Tequila” shares her itinerary for a perfect day in Mexico’s most spirited town.
The panorama of San Miguel de Allende at twilight is magical. A vista of colonial-era church domes and bell towers, Hillsides overlaid with houses in hues of ochre, orange, terra cotta, and burnt sienna, Cobblestoned, winding streets lined with wrought-iron lanterns. Taking it all in, Bertha González Nieves smiles. Co-founder and CEO of Casa Dragones, the renowned small-batch sipping tequila maker, she’s the world’s first recognized female maestra tequilera, and is an expert on both the spirit and the vibrant city whose legendary cavalry gave this exceptional tequila its name.
González Nieves loves San Miguel, regarded for its history and animated by its arts-loving residents, for its unique “balance of culture and modernity.” Case in point: Casa Dragones itself. The 17th-century stablehouse once housed the elite Dragones cavalry, which protected Spain’s interests in colonial Mexico…until it switched allegiance in 1810 under the command of Mexican revolutionary leader Ignacio de Allende. Their actions, according to González Nieves, sparked Mexico’s Independence movement.
So what are González Nieves’s must-sees in this city rich with history? “Visitors should begin with an evening stroll through the Jardín,” San Miguel’s main square, she says. “It comes alive with young couples and families, children enjoying ice cream, balloon vendors, musicians performing in the kiosk, all against the view of la Parroquia,” the town’s iconic steepled cathedral.
During daylight hours, she recommends delving further into the area’s heritage at the “beautifully restored” House Museum of Ignacio de Allende. Built during the 17th and 18th centuries, it documents the life and career of the general, executed in 1811 for treason more than a decade before Mexico ultimately achieved independence. She also points travelers to the Ignacio Ramírez Cultural Center—better known by locals simply as “Bellas Artes”—an arts academy inside a former convent. It’s home to works from renowned 20th-century muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, bold paintings that pay homage to Allende, the Dragones cavalry, and the Mexican Independence movement.
Shopping (and drinking) like Bertha
Shoppers will want to leave extra space in their suitcase for the return trip. “San Miguel has long been known for its art galleries, ceramics, and fine crafts,” points out González Nieves. “But today its diverse shops offer a wider selection as well as unique products from Mexico and abroad.” Among her favorites: Hoja Santa, “for stylish clothing and accessories for women and men by Mexican designers and artisans,” and Recreo, which sells men’s and women’s apparel made of luxury fabrics and hand-finished in San Miguel.
She also loves Rachel Horn Interiors, located in the Fábrica La Aurora, a former mill filled with galleries. The local designer’s furniture and home accessories are made by craftsmen in San Miguel and abroad.
Newcomer Dôce 18 Concept House is a collection of restaurants and shops offering embroidered linens by Hilando México, clothing by Carla Fernández, hand-painted crockery from Michoacán, and more—plus a photography gallery, flower stand, coffee bar, and pastry shop. Also in the complex: Casa Dragones Tasting Room, an intimate, Meyer Davis–designed spot lined with polished obsidian tiles, where a maximum of six guests can sample and sip.
The maestra tequilera has two other favorite bars in town. Jacinto1930 “reflects San Miguel’s cosmopolitan character,” she says of the spot where Welsh bartender Adrian Evans creates “enticing cocktails of typical Mexican flavors—jalapeño, chocolate, mole—with tequila or mezcal.” Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar, at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, offers what Gonzáles Nieves calls “the ideal vantage point for first-time visitors to take in views of San Miguel and enjoy a menu of wonderful cocktails.”
Casa Dragones: 16 Recreo; For tour reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org
House Museum of Ignacio de Allende: Cuna de Allende 1; +52 415-152-2499
Ignacio Ramírez Cultural Center: Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias 75; +52 415-152-0289
Hoja Santa: Ancha de San Antonio 9
Recreo: Recreo 26; +52 415-154-4820
Rachel Horn Interiors: Calzada La Aurora; +52 415-154-8323
Dôce 18 Concept House: Relox 18; +52 415-154-9201
Hilando México: Relox 18; +52 55-1085-4705
Carla Fernández: Relox 18
Casa Dragones Tasting Room: Relox 18; For tasting reservations, email email@example.com
Jacinto1930: Relox 18; +52 415-150-0075
Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar: Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, Nemesio Diez 11; +52 415-152-9700