Mexican Tequila

Written by Stacy Chbosky
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Mexican tequila has a rich and fascinating history. Blue agave tequila was the first spirit distilled on the continent of North America, as well as the first to be sold commercially. Before Mexican tequila was first distilled, in the 1500s, the natives contented themselves with a milder, fermented alcoholic beverage known as pulque.

Once the conquistadors arrived from Spain, they quickly turned to the blue agave plant to create a drink that was known by such names as mezcal wine, agave wine, or mezcal brandy. The drink later became known by the name, tequila. The name tequila comes from a small city in the Jalisco state in Mexico, called Tequila, which was established in the 1650s. To this day, the majority of Mexican tequila comes from Jalisco, where the arid soil produces the best blue agave plants.

Many people think the blue agave is a type of cactus. In actuality, the plant is a type of lily. Although there are many different types of agave plants, only one produces tequila. This is the renowned Weber blue agave plant. It takes about a decade for a Weber blue agave to grow to the size where it can be harvested for Mexican tequila.

Protecting the Mexican Tequila Name

Mexico is proud of its world-famous agave tequila, and has worked hard to protect the name. Today, the only tequila in the world is Mexican tequila. No other country is allowed to use the name, although many have tried. South Africa and Japan have both fought for the right to use the name tequila, and both have lost the battle.

You can compare the protection of the name tequila to the protection of the name champagne. The only champagne in the world comes from Champagne, France. That American stuff which gave you a hangover last New Year's Eve was not champagne, but rather sparkling wine, or sect. Tequila-type liquors that come from countries other than Mexico have to be called by other names, such as Spirit of Agave.

Types and Grades of Mexican Tequila

Mexican tequila comes in a number of different grades and styles. The best tequilas are all derived from 100 percent pure agave. They are always advertised as such. Other tequilas, which are known as mixtos, mix agave-derived tequila with sugars. The higher the percentage of sugar, the higher the probability of a hang over.

Tequila has unfairly received the reputation of being a lowly party spirit. It is associated with college drinking sprees and Spring Break blackouts. This is a shame, because good tequila is a truly sophisticated, complex spirit.

Hopefully, as magazines like Bon Appetit and papers like The New York Times continue to sing tequila's praises, public opinion will change. Good tequila is truly one of the smoothest, most interesting liquors produced anywhere in the world. It is absolutely delicious served over ice, with no other flavor but a squeeze of lemon.


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