The miracle of tequila starts with the beautiful agave plant. Agave is native to the hot and arid landscapes of Mexico. The name “agave” comes from a Greek word meaning noble or admirable. It’s a spikey plant that looks similar to a cactus but is actually a large succulent. There are currently 166 different known species of agave, and 125 of these are found in Mexico.
The fact that someone figured out how to transform this aggressive looking plant into the delicious beverage we know as tequila is absolutely mind-boggling. People have been harvesting the liquid from the agave’s heart since ancient times, and it’s believed that a man named Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira, was the first to mass produce what we now call tequila. In 1795, Don José Maria Guadalupe de Cuervo (José Cuervo himself!) was the first to receive an official license to mass produce.
Agave takes about five to eight years to fully mature. Once the plants are perfectly ripe, the hearts of the agave plants, known as the piñas, are separated, cut in half, and then steam-baked in order to transform their starchy sap into fermentable sugar. They need to be baked for about 24-48 hours and then cool for an additional 16-48 hours. They are then shredded and crushed in order to release the juices. These juices are then fermented, with different producers adding a different amount of sugars and/or yeasts at this stage. Fermentation occurs in large wooden or stainless steel vats and usually takes about 24-96 hours. Post fermentation, the liquid must be distilled in order to finally produce what we recognize as tequila.
Today, there are strict rules about what qualifies as tequila. All agave grown for tequila production must be registered with the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) – an organization whose purpose is to “promote the culture and quality of this beverage that has gained an important place among the national identity symbols,” according to their website. Tequila is a significant Mexican symbol, recognized and appreciated worldwide.
If this article got you in the mood for some tequila, come by Condesa! We have numerous delicious tequilas waiting for you behind our bar.
“Consejo Regulador del Tequila.” Consejo Regulador del Tequila, www.crt.org.
Difford, Simon. “How Is Tequila Made and What from?” Difford’s Guide – for Discerning Drinkers, 26 Jan. 2018, www.diffordsguide.com/encyclopedia/991/bws/tequila-how-is-tequila-made-and-what-from.
Melissa. “Who Invented Tequila?” Gizmodo, Gizmodo, 1 Aug. 2014, gizmodo.com/who-invented-tequila-1614486018.