Tequila: A Very Mexican Beverage

César Lozano

The national beverage "par excellence" is a symbol of Mexico rooted in the national traditions. There is an entire heritage behind its creation, reflected in the picturesque towns where it is produced and from which its success has spread around the world.

The history of tequila goes back to the pre-Hispanic era, when the Tequila Indians of Nahuatl origin who lived in Amatitan discovered that by allowing agave juice to ferment, they could obtain "pulque." History recounts stories of tequila's role in the social hierarchy of the past, noting it was a beverage set aside only for those of high standing: priests, warriors, elders, and politicians.

In the colonial era, methods of distillation that had been learned from the Arabs were introduced into the production process. At that time, the haciendas produced tequila for internal consumption. The first concession toproduce tequila was granted to Jose Guadalupe Cuervo in 1765, by the King of Spain; it was another tequilero, Cenobio Sauza, who initiated the export of the product in 1873 when he shipped six jugs and three barrels to the US.

The process of industrializing the production process began with the introduction of better technologies in the 1950's. This contributed to large-scale commercialization of tequila. Nevertheless, many distilleries maintained their traditional methods of production.

The towns of Tequila and Amatitan are the birthplaces of this famous beverage. The fertile fields produce blue agave (Agave Tequilaza Weber), the only plant authorized to be used for the production of tequila.?  In Jalisco alone there are more than 50 distilleries.

These days, tequila is enjoyed around the world as an exclusive product recognized as the most Mexican of beverages. You can find it easily in any bar, nightclub, or store in Puerto Vallarta.

How Tequila Is Produced

The product process begins with the harvesting of agave. The plant's fleshy leaves are stripped away, leaving only the cone-shaped heart. This is cooked in stone and clay ovens to soften the fibers, then it is pulped and pressed to extract the juice. This juice is allowed to ferment in stainless steel containers.

The fermented liquid is poured into huge vats where it is slowly heated to distill the vapors. Finally, it is stored in oak barrels, where it is left for sufficient time to reach the desired edge.

How To Drink It

The traditional way is to take it straight, or "derecho," in a tiny glass called a "caballito," tipping the glass and slowly sipping the contents in a single movement. It is accompanied by lemon, salt, and sometimes with a type of sweet-and-sour sauce called "sangrita."


Written by César Lozano Díaz