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The history of tequila is a short one. In the 1300s, the Aztecs used the agave plant to make an alcoholic beverage called pulque. In 1531, Spanish settlers—with knowledge of distillation—distilled the pulque. They called it mexcalli (mezcal).
In 1758, Spain’s King Ferdinand VI issued a land grant to Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo to cultivate the blue agave plant in the town of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico. In 1795, Spain’s King Carlos IV granted a permit to produce tequila commercially to his son Jose Guadalupe de Cuervo (Spanish King Carlos III prohibited alcohol, so it took thirty-seven years to start commercial production). Tequila was known as “mezcal de Tequila” until 1893 and was sold by the barrel. Cuervo's first bottled tequila was sold in 1906. The Cuervo family in modern times is wicked wealthy.
Today there are over 2,000 brands of tequila. Celebrities who have their own tequila brands include George Clooney, Justin Timberlake, Sean Combs, Mario Lopez, Carlos Santana, and Sammy Hagar.
The Top Things to
Know About Tequila
Tequila is Mexico’s national spirit and by law, it can only be produced in five Mexican states and nowhere else in the world.
The Margarita is Mexico’s national cocktail.
Jose Cuervo was the first commercial tequila, and it is still the number-one seller of tequila in the world.
There are over 200 varieties of the agave plant, but the blue agave is king.
All tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. There are many types of agave plants and for a bottle label to say "tequila" it must be made from at least 51% of the blue agave plant. Mezcal (also spelt mescal) is made from many types of agave plants. The marketing ploy of adding an aphrodisiac worm into a bottle of mezcal started in the 1940s and lasted through the 1990s. The worm is actually a moth larva that lives on agave plants in the caterpillar phase of life.
The agave plant heart (piña) is used to make tequila. A piña can weigh up to 200 pounds.
In the 1950s Herradura tequila—thanks to crooner superstar Bing Crosby—was the first 100 percent blue agave tequila to be introduced in America.
Americans tend to drink tequila as shots with salt and lime. Mexicans don’t use salt and lime when shooting tequila.
Just as it takes a long time and much effort to produce rum from sugarcane, the process of making tequila is also labor-intensive, and is mostly done by hand.
The most popular tequila cocktails are the Margarita, Strawberry Margarita, Tequila Sunrise, Bloody Maria, Paloma, and the Prairie Fire shot.
Types of Tequila
Blanco tequila is also referred to as silver, white, and platinum. Most times, blanco is distilled then poured straight into the bottle. However, blanco is allowed to be stored in stainless-steel tanks for up to sixty days before bottling.
Reposado means “rested.” It’s blanco that has been aged between two and twelve months in wood barrels. The color after aging is a light gold.
Anejo means “old.” It is blanco has been aged between one and three years. The color after aging is a dark gold. Anejos will be very smooth, therefore making it a good sipping tequila.
This category was added in 2006. It’s blanco that has been aged a minimum of three years.
Joven mean “young.” It’s blanco that has additives added to it such as coloring (to make it look aged), oak extract, and sugar. Jose Cuervo is a joven.
Fun Tequila Facts
National Tequila Day is June 24.
The agave plant is not from the cactus family; it is from the lily family.
The most expensive tequila is Ultra-Premium Ley .925 Pasion Azteca at $225,000 a bottle. It is expensive because the bottle is made from platinum and white gold. The company also produces another bottle with encrusted diamonds.
One of the most popular quotes about tequila is: “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”
The heart of the agave plant is called piña because it looks like a pineapple.
Tequila in Film
1988 Tequila Sunrise
Mel Gibson drinks Tequila Sunrises.
1996 Exit in Red
Annabel Schofield drinks a Margarita.
1997 Boogie Nights
Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly have Margaritas.
1997 Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag
Andy Comeau, Kristy Swanson, and George Hamilton drink Margaritas.
1997 My Best Friend’s Wedding
Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney order Margaritas.
1998 Practical Magic
Sandra Bullock makes a Midnight Margarita.
2002 Kissing Jessica Stein
Jennifer Westfeldt orders a Strawberry Margarita.
2003 Stuck on You
Cher and Greg Kinnear have Margaritas.
2004 Ladder 49
A Margarita is ordered.
2005 The Matador
Pierce Brosnan orders Margaritas.
Many Margaritas are drunk.
2008 Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Amy Adams mentions Margaritas.
2008 Never Back Down
A Margarita is seen.
2008 The House Bunny
Anna Faris has a Kamikaze. College students talk about Marvin’s tasty Margaritas.
Margaritas are seen.
Tequila in Song
1958 “Tequila” Stan Kenton
1973 “Tequila Sunrise” The Eagles
“Take another shot of courage, wonder why the right words never come, you just get numb, It's another Tequila Sunrise.”
1977 “Margaritaville” Jimmy Buffet
“Wastin' away again in Margaritaville, searching for my lost shaker of salt.”
1983 “Name Your Poison” Richard O’Brien
A Tequila Sunrise is mentioned
1983 “Trashed” Black Sabbath
“I drank a bottle of Tequila and I feel real good, I had the tape deck roaring.”
1992 “Straight Tequila Night” John Anderson
“Don't ask her on a straight Tequila night.”
1994 “Tequila” Pretenders
“I drank Tequila and watched the game in the bar, I don’ t care who loses, I don’t know who the teams are.”
1995 “Tequila Mockingbird” Pam and Mel Tillis
“Tequila mockingbird, flying underneath the neon moon, Tequila mockingbird, dreaming of a love that ended too soon.”
1995 “Tequila Talkin'” Lonestar
“It was just the Tequila talkin' when I told you I'm still not over you.”
1998 “Straight Tequila” Trini Trigs
“Pouring straight Tequila over mixed emotions tonight.”
2002 “All the Tequila in Tijuana” Kevin Fowler
“All the Tequila in Tijuana, won’t help me feel any stronger.”
2002 “Tequila” Youngbloodz
“Now let me tell you about this girl Tequila, she was born in eighteen hundred, she makes me feel real woozy, but I love this girl Tequila one shot of her love, it's over she takes all my money and all I want to do is hold her, Tequila my Mexican lover.”
2003 “You and Tequila” Deana Carter
“You and Tequila make me crazy, you run like poison in my blood.”
2004 “Stays in Mexico” Toby Keith
“One more Tequila they were fallin' in love.”
2005 “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Come Off” Joe Nichols
“but Tequila makes her clothes fall off.”
2014 “He Drinks Tequila, She Talks Dirty in Spanish” Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw
“He drinks Tequila and she talks dirty in Spanish, him in his sombrero, her in her purty pink jammies.”