For a good reason, many spirits are shrouded in the myth and mystery as tequila, which has been around for centuries. Despite its common association with salt and lime, it has stood the test of time. Also, it’s as respected among top bartenders as Scotch and bourbon. Just like bourbon, tequila distillers have a stringent set of rule to obey. They must ensure every bottle is made from the proper location, from the right ingredients, and Reposado version is aged for the right time. Below is a detailed history of tequila. Thanks to our friend Brian ( who owns his own moving company ) for this historical look at agave!
The Aztecs Ferment Agave – 1000 B.C to 200 A.D.
Though the Aztecs knew very well how to make a real rager, the tequila didn’t start out as the tequila we know of today. The Aztecs prized a fermented drink called plaque, which utilized the sap agave plant. Because the milky liquid was very important to the Aztec culture, they worshipped Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey, and her husband Patecatl, the god of pulque. When the Aztecs received a visit from the Spanish, the drink became more popular.
The Spanish Distilled Agave – 1400S to 1600S
Though there are many theories on the beginning of agave distillation, the most popular is the theory that involves the Spanish invasion. When supplies began to run low, the parched Spaniards improvised with mud and agave, creating Mezcal. In the early 1600S, the Marquis of Altamira built a large-scale distillery called Tequila, Jalisco.
The Modern Tequila – 1700S t0 1800S
In 1758, the Cuervo family commercially began distilling tequila, and later in 1873, they were joined by the Sauza family. Of course, there were other small producers in between. According to Slate, Sauza family was responsible for identifying that the blue agave is the best for producing tequila.
The Margarita Invention – 1936
During the prohibition of the rye whiskey from Canada, tequila found a home among the American scofflaws. U.S based drinkers started taking advantage of Mexico’s sweet agave nectar. In fact, more than one hundred bars operating in Tijuana were plentiful with the drink. In the late 1936, going to Mexico was no longer requisite, because it was once again legal to drink in the States. However, James Graham, a newspaperman, and his wife, travelled to Tijuana, where they visited Madden, an Irishman, who was famous for his Tequila Daisy. Even though Madden agreed that the invention of the drink was a lucky mistake, it’s the most celebrated in the U.S.
The Term “Tequila” Becomes an Intellectual Property of Mexico – 1974
In 1974, the Mexican government took a move to own the term “tequila,” and declared it its intellectual property. Though this made it necessary for tequila to be produced and aged in some regions of Mexico, it became illegal for other countries to make and sell their own tequila. Later, the Tequila Regulatory Council was formed to ensure quality and promote the culture surrounding the spirit.
Bartenders’ Love Affair with Agave – 2015
From the pulque to today’s tequilas, bartenders are taming the humble agave nectar into more than the simple Tequila Sunrises and Margaritas. In 2009, Phil Ward opened a bar called Mayahuel to celebrate the state of the fantastic tequila and mezcal in the U.S. The bar popularized tequila classic cocktails such as the Oaxaca Old Fashioned. Later, many noteworthy bars, such as the Masa Azul in Chicago, the 400 Rabbits in Austin, and Ivy Mix, were started across the country. Recently, Ivy Mix was named the Best American Bartender.