The Tequila You Know And Love/Hate Has A Wild History Dating Back Hundreds Of Years
In case you haven’t heard, already rich, white celebs like Kendall Jenner and George Clooney are in the tequila business. News of their involvement in a centuries old industry has frequently been met with…mixed opinions (to put it nicely). Comments varied from “It took her 4 years to create a ‘good tequila’ and she proceeded to drink it with ice” to “Great, another white person getting richer off our culture,” after Clooney sold his business for more than $1 billion.
Thankfully, it’s safe to say that the history of tequila and the multibillion dollar industry around it is extremely resilient. One has to look no further than its wild, intriguing, and truly Mexican history and identity.
The first versions of tequila date back to 1000 B.C.
While throwing back shots or sipping on a margarita, you may not be thinking about where the liquor originated, but you should probably give it at least a passing thought next time because it really is spectacular. The tequila that is now famous all around the world didn’t actually start off the way we know it now.
It actually originated as pulque – which is still popular across Mexico today – and was made from the fermented sap of the agave plant by the Mexica people of central Mexico. According to Liquor.com, this same technique likely dates back to 1000 B.C. and was used by the Olmecs an even more prehistoric Meso-American civilization. Pulque was first documented via pictograms on stone walls around 200 A.D.
Then the Spanish invaded and brought with them distillation processes.
European conquistadores brought with them many things to the Americas – including devastating diseases like small pox – but they also brought the process of distillation. Many point to the mid-16th Century as the beginning of the distillation processed used to create tequila. As Spaniards began running out of brandy – their preferred drink – they started using mud and agave to create tequila. By the early 1600s the Marquis of Altamira (a Spanish nobleman) built the first large-scale distillery in what is now Tequila, Jalisco. Jalisco is where the majority of tequila is produced to this day.
Tequila was first commercially produced in the 1700s and the Cuervo brand was born.
Pretty much anyone who calls themselves a tequila drinker is a good acquaintance of the Cuervo family. Their line of tequila products is popular around the world. And for good reason. The Cuervo brand dates back to 1758 when the family started commercially distilling tequila – followed by the Sauza family in 1873. According to Slate, Don Cenobio Sauza was responsible for identifying blue agave as the best for producing tequila—and by this point what we now know as tequila was likely being produced at these distilleries.
It was only a matter of time until tequila became a part of the wildly popular margarita.
Many say that the margartita was invented at a bar in Tijuana owned by an Irishman who was catering to U.S. tourists looking to get their fix during the Prohibition era. Many Americans would travel south of the border to get drunk and stock up on alcohol since it was all illegal in the U.S.
Today, margaritas come in all flavors and colors and can be found on menus from Ciudad de Mexico to Hong Kong and even in small towns and villages – pretty much everyone knows what a margarita is.
Mexico gains ownership of tequila internationally.
In a move to take ownership of the term “tequila,” the Mexican government declared the term as its intellectual property in 1974. This made it necessary for tequila to be made and aged in certain areas of Mexico, and it also made it illegal for other countries to produce or sell their own “tequila.” The Tequila Regulatory Council was additionally created to ensure quality and promote the culture surrounding the spirit.
As margaritas continue to rule the world, it’s important as ever to take at least a moment to reflect on the long and wild history behind one of the world’s most popular alcoholic drinks. It was being created by our ancestors more than 1,000 years before Europeans ever set foot in the Americas and has continued to survive (and thrive) more than 2,000 years later.
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