The Origin of Tequila

Tequila is one of the more popular types of liquor and makes a perfect pairing for Mexican food. Whether you drink straight shots with salt and lime or you enjoy a fruity frozen margarita, this type of mezcal has a distinct taste that you are sure to remember. Not many people know much about the history of this classic Mexican alcohol. Knowing more about the drink and its rich history may make you appreciate it even more.

Here are some fun facts about the origin of tequila: 

Ancient Origins of Tequila

A drink similar to tequila likely originated around 1000 B.C. among the Olmec people in what is now Southeastern Mexico. This is known as pulque and is made from agave, the same plant that is used to distill as the liquor we know today. The process of fermenting agave results in a viscous, milky liquid with a sour taste and hints of yeast. The Olmecs and later the Aztecs used this drink in religious rituals.

It wasn’t until the Spanish invaded that the drink became more similar to what we know today. The Spanish distilled the agave plant with the same technique they used to distill wine into brandy. This created the first official mezcals, which is a category that includes any liquor distilled from the agave.

Birth of Major Brands

Whereas mezcal can be made from any type of agave, tequila is always made from the blue agave plant. This tradition started at the same time as the birth of the major tequila brands in the 1700s and 1800s. Specifically, the Sauza family first discovered that the blue agave plant was the best-suited for distillation.

There were two major families that were pioneers of tequila. The first was the Cuervo family, which started distilling in 1758. This then became the popular Jose Cuervo brand in 1795 and has been a leader in the industry ever since. The other family that produced the liquor was the Sauza family which started in 1873. An intense rivalry between the Cuervo family and the Sauza family produced many myths, legends, and tall tales that still color the history of this mezcal.

Copyrighting Tequila

You may have heard that champagne is only a valid term for sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. Even if other sparkling wines taste the same, they are not technically champagne. Similarly, tequila only refers to mezcals made from blue agave in specific regions of Mexico. Mexico actually copyrighted the term “tequila” in 1974 and made it illegal for anyone outside of certain regions of Mexico to bottle and export the liquor.

There are other strict regulations for what can and cannot be referred to by this name. The Tequila Regulatory Council of Mexico (TRCM) makes these decisions. For example, up until 2004, it was illegal to label any flavored mezcal as tequila, even if it was made from blue agave. Another example of regulatory action surrounding the liquor was the creation of the añejo tequila category in 2006, which can only include distilled spirits from blue agave that have been aged for at least 3 years.

Enjoying this Alcohol Today

You do not have to know about the procedure to make tequila or the regulations surrounding it to enjoy a shot or your favorite tequila beverage. However, it does make your next night at a Mexican restaurant more interesting to know exactly how this drink became what is today.

Tequila at Guads

If you are craving this distinctly Mexican beverage, you can get it at our restaurants. We have over 100 of the finest tequilas, including: Patron Silver, Don Julio Añejo, and Cazadores Reposado.

Visit us at either of our two Tucson locations and explore our delicious food and extensive tequila menu.