March 13, 2013

The Global Spirit of Tequila

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Written by: Nydia O
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2010-01-01 00.00.00-66

Most people are familiar with the seductive spirit called Tequila. The choices are tremendous, and the list keeps growing making it difficult to decide which one is the best. Furthermore, costly marketing campaigns lure consumers to purchase not only a bottle of Tequila, but a perceived status. At parties people throw around names like Don Julio or 1800, because those appear to be the industry’s “A” listers, and they are good luxury tequilas, but not the only option. Tequila does not have to be extremely expensive to be good.

It is important to consider certain clichés that have misled the public thanks to the film industry. Movies of the Mexican Golden Era portrayed manly men chugging shots of tequila instead of sipping their Tequila. To some, Tequila is associated with drunkenness and irresponsible behavior because it is believed to be a strong drink meant to enjoy in quick shots when one is feeling adventuresome. The truth of the matter is that Tequila is not stronger than other spirits, for most tequila bottles have a 38% to 40% alcohol volume. In addition, tequila bottles do not come with a worm. Worms are found in some bottles of mezcal, and again, the popular worm is not more than a mere marketing gimmick.  

Going back to the origins of Tequila might shed some light and familiarize consumers with this globally popular spirit. In 1758, when Spain ruled over what is now the country of Mexico, Jose Antonio de Cuervo obtained land from the Spanish King in an area called Tequila in the state of Jalisco. Spanish settlers had introduced the distillation process used in the making of pulque – an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant. A few years later, Jose Maria Guadalupe de Cuervo, made the very first Vino Mezcal de Tequila after receiving the first official permit to commercially produce Tequila. Shortly after, the rolling hills that surround the town of Tequila were covered with blue agave fields.  As tequila’s popularity increased, so did the need to protect its denomination of origin, just like Bordeaux, Bourbon or Cognac. Therefore only alcoholic beverages made with Blue Agave, and grown in the states of Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas can be labeled as Tequila.  The town of Tequila is what gave the name to this spirit. It is said that Tequila means “rock that cuts” in the native Nahuatl dialect.

This information prompts us to ask what is Blue Agave, and what does it look like? The Blue Agave and cactuses are usually mistaken as equal, but the agave is a relative of the Lily (amaryllis) family. A piña (pineapple) is found at the heart of a blue agave plant, and is where all the sugars used to make Tequila are found. It is because of its similarity to a pineapple that it was labeled with this name. Blue Agave’s botanical name is Agave Tequiliana Weber Azul given by German botanist Herr Weber in 1903. Blue agaves can take anywhere from 6 to 12 years to mature.

Making good tequila is the result of experience, hand craftsmanship and recipes that have been passed down through generations. Jose Cuervo, the industry’s patriarch company, still prides itself in carefully choosing the best agaves, in their meticulous fermentation and distillation in order to deliver one of the world’s finest Tequilas. Jose Cuervo’sTradicionalTequila was the family’s first creation, and has become an award winning classic favored by Tequila aficionados all over Mexico and abroad.  

Now that some of the basics have been presented, we’ll go back to the selection process. When buying Tequila, people notice different classifications such as Añejo and Reposado. What does this mean? Which one is better? Reposado means “rested” because this Tequila must rest in wood barrels for a minimum of two months as required by the Mexican government. As a result, the flavor and color of tequila reposado is modified by the wood barrels. This resting also mellows and refines the tequila, producing a combination of superb smoothness and great taste. Añejo means “aged”; in terms of the Tequila industry it is a designation used to describe Tequila that has been aged in oak barrels for at least one year. The clear Tequila also unofficially referred to as “young” is the first distilled product that goes through a homogenizing process and direct to the bottle. It is usually the most affordable. But do not be fooled. Don Julio Tequila just came out with the world’s first Añejo Claro Tequila.

Tastings are not exclusive to wine, for there are tequila tastings organized so consumers can taste, savor, feel and enjoy this spirit. It is important for each person to find the tequila that best soothes their palate, and not the most expensive and popular. It is also important to look for tequila that is labeled as made with 100 % Blue Agave. The best Tequila is the Tequila that tastes better to each individual.

Once a person chooses a Tequila bottle to take home, the decision making process continues. How is the tequila going to be enjoyed? Consider these serving suggestions:

The Traditional Margarita – New creative ways of mixing a Margarita have recently surfaced such as the Blackberry Margaritas, the Cranberry Orange Margaritas, and the Pineapple Lime Cilantro Margarita are just a few examples.

For more recipes visit and

The Bloody Maria is a favorite rendition of a Bloody Mary. The only difference is that Bloody Maria uses tequila instead of Vodka. According to some, the good thing is that the Tequila stands out, unlike Vodka which tends to get lost in this spicy drink.

The Paloma (The Dove) is a cocktail consisting of Tequila and Squirt on ice.


First Tequila ever Made

Jose Cuervo Tradicional: first tequila ever made.

The Banderita as in the Mexican flag is probably the oldest tradition of accompanying Tequila. It involves three shot glasses of Tequila, lime, and Sangrita. Sangrita (little blood) is sold in a bottle, and is made of tomatoes, oranges, lime, onions, salt and chili peppers. It was created to quench the fire of homemade tequila in the old days, and quickly became a Mexican tradition.

Simply sip it straight. Good tequila is meant to be sipped, contrary to most people’s perception. Like most good things in life, Tequila is better enjoyed slowly. Consider the añejo and reposado varieties for sipping, for the taste is smoother.

People who appreciate good tequila will find their favorite brand and enjoy it in this simple, more classic fashion. Add a few ice cubes when sipping tequila, or keep a bottle chilled in the freezer ready to serve.

Cheers and Salud! 

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About the Author

Nydia O
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" my life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and my spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts, nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most importantly, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .


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