TEQUILA - A "Very" Brief History

Figured we should give a little fun history on Tequila considering we have more than 70 to choose from

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”Psychedelic babe, let’s get baking.” 

”Actually…. It’s probably not in the sense that you had imagined.” It’s not true, any of it! The magic potion, psychedelic aphrodisiac and special effects derived from drinking tequila, are all in the power of the persuasion, shaped by urban legend and folklore.

“But bartender, what about the worm?” 

I’m sorry to burst the bubble on that myth as well. The only thing you get from eating the so-called worm is a little protein. It’s not even a
real worm but moth larvae that live inside agave plants, to top it off, if it’s in your bottle, you’re drinking a mezcal, not tequila. Tequila isn’t made from a cactus either, it might look like a cactus, and it is a desert plant, but the blue agave (Agave Azul) used in the production of tequila is more related to the lily and amaryllis.



Tequila is distilled from the sap of the large juicy piña found at the bottom of the blue agave, which is where baking comes into the picture. Piña’s weighing between 80 – 300 lbs. are baked very slowly in brick ovens called horno’s, at about 140-185 °F for 50 to 72 hours. Agave plants must be at least six to twelve years old before they are suitable, so, planning ahead for increased demand is close to impossible, this is one of the reasons why blends and mescals are gaining ground in the world market.

“Mescal,” here I go with that word again.

“Well, it’s simple, technically tequila is a mescal, but the mescal is not tequila,” follow me here for a second. There are 136 species of the agave plant in Mexico, mescal can be distilled from any of those, only one of them is blue, and that is the agave plant used to produce tequila. It can be a blend or a mixto and still be a tequila as long as it includes a minimum of 51% blue agave, anything less and it’s a mescal. The key for tequila is; the more the blue agave – the better the quality. This discovery is credited to Don Cenobite Sauza, who determined that the blue agave plant was the most potent and best for making tequila in the 18th-century, 100% blue agave with no additional sugar added prior to fermentation is considered the best. Don Pedro Sanchez de tagle Marguis of Altamira is credited with the first factory and payment of taxes on mescal wine in 1608. The first license to distill tequila was granted to Jose Cuervo in 1758, but  neither tequila or mescal was exported to Europe before 1870, and it wasn’t until 1893 when tequila won an award at the world fair in Chicago that it became considered a major spirit. In 1906, another Jose Cuervo went down in history by being the first to bottle tequila, a huge success amongst the hard riding, gun-slinging rebels during the Mexican Revolution of 1910.


© Nete Nentvig – South Beach Cocktail Company