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  • Writer's pictureLos Mexicanos

Tequila, History Of A Tradition.

When you hear the word "Mexico" it is very likely that the word "tequila" immediately springs to mind.


The tasty main ingredient of Margaritas, tequila is one of the most well-known distillates around the world, but have you ever wondered what it is, where it comes from and what its history is? Let's find out below!


For this blog, we will rely on the information available from Casa Sauza and the Tequila Regulatory Council, because no one knows its history better than those who make and certify it.



So, what is tequila?


The Tequila Regulatory Council describes it as a spirit made in a defined region in Mexico, originating in the town of Tequila, in the state of Jalisco.



What does the word tequila mean?


According to Casa Sauza, it has its origins in the Nahuatl "tequitl" (work or job) and "tlan" (place), its definition being "place of work". But, according to other versions, the word "tequila" refers to obsidian, known in Nahuatl as "tecatlis", and the person who used it as his main tool was called "tecuilo". This is how, by habit, the place began to be called "Tecuila" and, later, "Tequila".



How is it produced?


Tequila is produced by distilling the fermented must obtained from the heart of the Blue Agave. The heart of the plant, which resembles a huge pineapple, is also called "mezcal" (not to be confused with the drink).


The origin of the word "mezcal" also comes from the Nahuatl language, meaning "house of the moon", meaning the core, the centre, the essence, etc.


It is important to clarify that there are more than 295 different agave species, and, as mentioned before, only the Blue Agave, being the beverages made from these others called by different names, as well as having different consistency and texture, such as mezcal (tequila's first cousin), aguamiel and pulque.



When was tequila invented and who do we have to thank for it?


There are, as always, two versions of this story. According to legend, tequila was discovered after lightning fell on an agave plantation during a storm, heating the plants to such an extent that mead sprang from them, attracting the attention of the natives, who discovered that, when fermented, it had relaxing qualities and euphoric effects when drunk, thinking it was a gift from the gods of drunkenness.


This is why several allegorical paintings depicting the history of the drink include the god Bacchus in them.


According to documented history, it is during the first decades of the Conquest that this drink saw the light of day as a fermented product of the agave plant, later distilled in stills introduced to the continent.



Where can the drink be made and called tequila?


Tequila is a product with a Denomination of Origin (DOT), like Champagne in France, or Iberian Ham in Spain; which gives the drink the exclusive characteristic of being made only in certain regions within Mexico, such as the State of Jalisco, part of the State of Nayarit, part of Michoacán, part of Guanajuato and part of Tamaulipas.



How many tequilas are there?


There are two main categories of tequilas:

- Tequila: Its composition, according to the applicable Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM), must be at least 51% sugars from agave, and the rest from cane sugars or corn syrup.


- 100% pure agave tequila: Its composition is total and absolute agave sugars.



What are the varieties of tequila?


According to their maturation process, tequilas are classified into 5 varieties:

- White or Silver Tequila: These are transparent tequilas, not necessarily colourless, without an ageing process in wood.


- Young or Gold Tequila: Tequilas resulting from the blending of a white tequila with a reposado, añejo or extra añejo tequila.


- Tequila Reposado: Tequila rested in oak or oak barrels for a minimum period of 2 months and less than 12 months.


- Aged Tequila: Tequila matured in direct contact with the wood in oak or oak barrels for a minimum period of 12 months and less than 36 months.


- Extra aged Tequila: Tequila matured in direct contact with oak or oak barrels for a minimum period of 3 years.




Sources:

Consejo Regulador del Tequila. (s.f.). Historia del Tequila. Obtenido de Consejo Regulador del Tequila: https://www.crt.org.mx/index.php/es/el-tequila-3/historia




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