At Now Amber Puerto Vallarta—where the phrase, Unlimited Luxury is actually a registered trademark, you can spend your entire visit happily chilling in this tropically landscaped Pacific playground and just bliss out as the sun bakes through the day and at dusk paints the Pacific with a palette of coral and tangerine. Or you can actually get up and do stuff. Both plans of action—or inaction—should by all means begin and end with cocktails. Here is your guide to The Bars of Now Amber.
Moments Lobby Bar
You will be excused if you detour from check-in as your attention is hijacked across and beyond the vast lobby deck to a drop-dead Pacific panorama. The open-air deck is made for lounging with cocktails as you watch the pool and beach action below or await the sunset. The comfortable chairs whisper to you, “Grab a beer, sit here and play with your phone for an hour.” Moments delivers drinks to loungers, and it’s tough to pass by without lingering when there are open seats at the bar.
Affable Diego has been a bartender for eight years and a lobby barman for nearly two years. He grew up in a small town about five hours away, and has lived in Puerto Vallarta since the roll-over of the Millennium.
Resort bartenders are players in a game of musical bars, keeping it interesting by changing positions more often than a triple-A outfield. Be not dismayed when your amigo Diego suddenly vanishes from the lobby bar after you have become reliant on him for your morning Piña Colada. You will reunite soon enough at the swim-up bar!
We got down to business commissioning Diego to craft the two most-requested tequila cocktails in Mexico: a La Paloma and a Margarita.
At Moments, they like to dress up Margarita in an Old Fashioned glass. Diego says the name La Paloma borrows from the title of a famous Mariachi standard, but that credit for its invention is disputed. Difford’s Guide to Cocktails credits Don Javier Delgado Corona of La Capilla bar in Tequila, but I traveled there and asked Don Javier flat-out and he dismissed that legend as fake news. Diego says people in small villages had been pouring tequila into Jarritos grapefruit soda since it became Mexico’s first national soft drink in the 50s. Mixing lime juice, grapefruit soda (like Squirt or Fresca) and tequila was commonplace before the drink acquired a popular name.
When a customer asked him to help him relieve his hangover with a glass of lime, soda water and salt on the rim, Diego instead prescribed a remedy he swears is superior. His hangover cure is called a Red Sky. Beer, Clamato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and salt on the rim with a slice of lime. Interestingly, many will recognize this as the conjoined twin brother of the Michelada cocktail, so the hangover cure may well be a “hair of the dog.”
Diego says his favorite part of the job is meeting people from every part of the world and says guests who visit regularly have been teaching him a little Chinese, Portuguese and French.
He says when good-natured guests discover his name is Diego, they may drolly call him Don Diego (Zorro) or San Diego.
As day turns to night, Diego turns into Jan and Isaias. Jan produced this night’s signature drink called the French Martini. It is made with vodka, pineapple juice, cassis, and an orange slice perched on the lip of the glass.
To the rear of the front lobby bar is a second bar at Moments, where two flat screens show sporting events. Guests seated at tables behind the rear bar are permitted to smoke.
Open from 10am to 1am. Back bar is open from 5pm to 1am.
Sugar Reef Bar
Across the vast Now Amber pool deck, a cocktail squad of waiters develop their upper-body strength by delivering impossibly-packed trays of frozen umbrella drinks and cervezas. The busy cocktail production center is Sugar Reef Bar. It is a walk-up bar frequented by those reclining poolside who aren’t quite ready to get wet (at the swim-up bar!).
Three-year resort barman Jose Maria confides that since the bar is near the children’s pool, he grants frequent requests for non-alcoholic Mudslides, Piña Coladas and virgin Daiquiris.
Among pool deck guests ordering adult beverages, the most-requested are beers and Margaritas. Waiter Mario (who claims the title Super Mario) guestimates he delivers a thousand drinks a day.
Which is a staggering number of drinks for him to carry, but more staggering still is that Jose Maria and partner Ricardo actually craft a thousand drinks a day! Ricardo has been making drinks at Now Amber for 5 years, since the resort opened. He surprised us by announcing he would make a drink very popular at the Now Amber pool, and produced a Bob Marley, a drink ubiquitous at resorts across Jamaica. He says the Bob Marley is now embraced by resort guests everywhere. I’ve had ‘em in Jamaica. Ricardo’s does not disappoint!
Find Sugar Reef Bar behind Castaways restaurant beside the kids’ pool. It is open from 10 to 6.
This bar is shared by Now Amber and its adjacent sister resort Secrets Vallarta Bay. Seekers of the nightlife gravitate to Desires (on the resort level just above the ground-floor nightly stage show) when the hour grows late. It’s the adults-only refuge in the family-friendly Now Amber.
Bartender Brandon is Puerto Vallarta born and has an interesting bloodline. His grandfather was Japanese. His grandmother was British. His father is Mexican.
Pool players come and go in the hours before Desires opens and the club opens periodically as a sports bar when big games from around the world are televised. At night the flat-screens display music videos and disco lights paint the walls with shifting shapes and colors.
For those not seated at the bar, drinks are delivered to tables and private rooms off the dance floor that offer a retreat from the music for conversation.
The most-ordered drink here is the Margarita, followed by the Mai Tai, Rum Punch, Piña Colada and the Strawberry Daiquiri.
Brandon offered us a drink he especially likes to craft called a Mayan Sacrifice. It begins with rum, orange juice and a melon liqueur. When it already looked wonderful, he blended a frozen Strawberry Daiquiri and spooned it onto the top, giving the appearance of fiery red lava atop a volcano.
After we tasted the floating frozen drink and pronounced it terrific, Brandon stirred the concoction thoroughly, producing a new result that was entirely different and even more tasty. I imagine the Sacrifice is sobriety.
Brandon says the club fills swiftly after the stage show concludes downstairs.
Operating the state-of-the-art DJ booth and digital control board is Ezequiel. He plays a mix of music including Spanish language, English, lounge and rock.
To the question, “What’s the main draw of Desires?” Brandon replied without hesitation…”Dancing and drinking!”
The party begins at 10pm and rocks till 1am. One floor below the lobby via the elevator by the coffee shop.
Manatees Swim Up Bar
Alan is our bartender on a day when sun has just muscled aside the clouds at 10am. Our old amigo Diego from the Lobby Bar puts in a welcome guest appearance. A casual observation—Most often, when a bar staffer spots a camera lens pointed his way, it triggers an autonomic response causing his thumb to reflexively spring upward. Must be in the employee handbook.
Diego loves working at the pool bar for the same reason guests love the pool bar—the beautiful views of the blue Pacific. His daily office is steps from the beach and the rolling surf is the soundtrack to his work day.
Alan has worked at the resort two years. He says the drinks most-ordered at Manatees include Piña Coladas and Miami Vices. Cazadores Reposado tequila is often ordered not only for sipping but as the base for Tequila Sunrises and Margaritas and Charro Negros, which he made for us. With tequila, Coke, salt on the rim and a lime.
With a larger splash of lime this could be called a Batanga. Visitors from Havana would call it a Cuba Libre with tequila appearing in the role of rum. Perfect in the tropical heat.
Diego wanted us to try a frozen Daiquiri. A work of art.
There is plenty of elbow room at 10am, but the barstools in waist-high water fill up quickly as those not sleeping off a late night arrive at the pool. From the bar—a first-rate view of rollers breaking on the beach of Banderas Bay through a picturesque row of thatched palapas shading the beach chaises.
Open from 10am to 6pm.
For those able to pay more—Preferred Club delivers more. And that includes libations. The bar and lounge exclusive to Preferred guests is an oasis tucked away on the second floor of the club tower.
Here, we meet Jaime. He has been a bartender for 11 years and 5 of those have been at Now Amber, where he enlisted when the resort opened. The Preferred Club Bar stocks some premium liquors not available at other resort bars. He displays a stunning blue on white hand-painted decanter of Clase Azul Reposado tequila. This is Not-Inclusive. A shot will cost you $21US. $21 will also buy you a Don Julio 1942 Añejo poured from a 60th Anniversary designer bottle.
Case Azul also produces a black bottle of the same shape painted in real platinum and gold which sells for 15 hundred dollars and a larger one for 6 thousand dollars. Preferred guests wander in from time to time for a sip of Courvoisier VSOP and Johnny Walker Black Label.
When we asked if he was especially skilled at preparing what he considered a signature drink, Jaime’s automatic response was to re-aquaint us with the ubiquitous La Paloma; lime juice in Fresca and elevated in flavor here with a base of high quality Herradura Reposado tequila.
Jaime allowed as how one of the most-requested drinks at the Preferred Club bar is Don Julio tequila for sipping neat. And while Corona flows on draft at all the resort bars, he can also offer his customers cans of Pacifico, Modelo, Corona Light and Bud Light.
Jaime says a perfect day for him away from work is catching a movie and walking along the Puerto Vallarta seaside promenade, the Maleco̒n.
Open 7am to 11pm.
Now Amber Bonus Bar: Bloody Mary & Mimosa Bar
For those who include fruits as a healthy start to their day, the essential ingredients for Bloody Marys and Mimosas and the tools for constructing them are offered at the breakfast buffet. And remember—substituting tequila for vodka produces a Bloody Maria!