There are only a few alcoholic drinks that are as shrouded in mystery and myth as Tequila, and for good reasons. This recognizable and spicy Mexican drink has been around for many years, most probably for centuries. Since they are around that long, there is a lot of time for a few tall tales to surface – good or bad.
Despite its association with salt and lime or one-hit-wonder cocktails like the Tequila Sunrise, this spirit derived from the agave plant has stood the test of time and is pretty respected among bartenders as Scotch and Bourbon. Even A-Lister celebrities like George Clooney, Dwayne Johnson, and sports billionaire Michael Jordan put their hard-earned money to start a brand.
And like America’s official native spirit – the bourbon – manufacturers have a strict set of rules that they need to follow. These include making sure that every bottle is made in the right location and the right ingredients. Reposados and Añejos need to be aged perfectly. But as the Romans say: “Rome (or tequila, Jalisco in this case) was not built in a day – not even a millennium.”
To find out more about how the spirit is made, click here for more details.
Agave was fermented by the Aztecs (1,000 B.C to 200 Anno Domini)
While it is possible that the Aztecs knew how to make a good spirit, it did not start as a party people’s shot of choice, nor the drink we know today. Ancient Aztecs had their prized fermented drink called Pulque. It was extracted the sap of the Agave plant.
The technique used to extract its juices was also used by the ancient Olmecs dating back to 1,000 B.C. These people are based on the lowlands of Mexico and are a much older civilization than the Aztecs. The milky liquid the Aztecs produced from the Agave plant was essential to their community and culture that they worshiped gods because of their relationship with the alcoholic drinks.
These two gods are Patectl or the god of Pulque, and Mayahuel or the goddess of maguey. Although the first official documentation of Pulque on their stone walls appeared around 150 to 200 A.D., Pulque caught on after many centuries when the Spaniards visited Mexico.
The Spaniards distilled and manufactured mezcal (1400 to 1600)
While there are different theories on how agave distillation started, one common story involves primitive mud stills and Spanish invasion. Spaniards could not survive long without their brandy, so when their supply began to run out, they improvised with agave and mud. It essentially creates what people now called Mezcal. We need to remember that technically speaking, these spirits are Mezcals, but not all Mezcals are considered tequilas.
From 1500 to 1600, the Spanish government opened the Manila Galleon Trade Route, connecting Manila, Philippines, and New Spain (or what we called today as Mexico). In 1600, the Marquis of Altamira established the very first large-scale distillery, in what is now called the Tequila, Jalisco.
Visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezcal to find out more about mezcals.
The modern Mexican spirit was born (1700 to 1800)
In the 1700s, one of the most prominent families, the Cuervo Family, started distilling Tequila commercially. The Sauza family later followed in the late 1800s. Between that, hundreds, if not thousands of small distilleries, started producing everyone’s favorite spirit. According to experts, Don Cenobio Sauza was the one who identified that blue agave is considered as the best for producing quality spirits.
The birth of Margarita (1936)
Just like rye whiskey during the Prohibition, it also found its home in American alcohol shelves. Drinkers in the United States started taking advantage of Mexico’s delicious agave nectar because they cannot get hands-on quality spirits beyond bathtub gins, moonshines, and second-rate whiskey.
At least thousands of bars in Mexico are serving Tequila, not only to Mexicans but also Americans who want to drink but cannot get hands-on quality spirit because of the Prohibition. According to historians, Margarita started when James Graham and his wife went to Tijuana and wound up in a bar run by an Irishman known for their Tequila Daisy.
According to the Irishman, Margarita’s creation was a sweet accident and a lucky mistake (Margarita in Spanish means daisy). There is probably no teen in America today that did drink Margarita or know tequila salt brands in their lifetime.
The drink becomes the legal intellectual property of Mexico
In the hopes of taking ownership of the word Tequila, the Mexican government in 1974, declared it as their intellectual property. It made it necessary for mezcal to be aged and made in specific areas of the country. It also made it illegal for places outside Mexico to produce, distill, or sell their own spirit. Mexico created the Tequila Regulatory Council to make sure that only the quality product hit the market, as well as promote the culture surrounding this spirit.