The Spirit of Mexico
Any celebration of Mexican nationality, pride and culture could not be complete without acknowledging tequila, a mainstay of today’s spirit shelf that was made famous by Mexicans.
Discovered by Aztecs in ancient Mexico, several hundred years ago, tequila is inextricably linked with the country’s nationality, pride and culture. Originally only enjoyed by heroes, high priests and sacrificial victims, today tequila has a much wider and loyal following and is enjoyed throughout the world.
A great mixer used in a variety of cocktails, and the perfect accompaniment to spicy Mexican food, tequila is recognised as the essential ingredient of the refreshing margarita, but it is perhaps best known in its traditional form of consumption – a glass, with a lick of salt and a bite of lime.
The main ingredient in tequila that gives the drink its distinctive flavour is the sap of the blue agave plant, a cactus-like plant that is a member of the lily family and indigenous to Mexico. The juice from the plant is fermented and distilled, a process that is monitored under Mexican law, which states that tequila must contain a minimum of 51% blue agave.
The geographical home of tequila is fiercely guarded by the Mexican government and the Tequila Regulatory Council. Tequila is predominantly produced in the state of Jalisco, around the small town of Tequila, in the arid highlands of central Mexico. Being protected in much the same way as the drinks of Scotch, Cognac and Bourbon are in their respective countries of origin, any product made outside of this jurisdiction is therefore neither authentic Mexican tequila nor technically able to be promoted using the name tequila.
Tequila is often confused with a related drink called mezcal, which is made from other varieties of the agave plant. Although they have their obvious similarities, tequila and mezcal are two distinct products, differentiated by production, process and taste. The presence of a worm in the bottle is a simple way to tell the two drinks apart. Most mezcals contain a worm for marketing purposes, where authentic tequila will not.
Like any beverage, tequilas vary according to the production methods used, the growing environment and the company making them. The temperature, soil, equipment and age of the plants used, all affect the resulting flavour and body.
Even within the tequila family, there are different styles of the drink and a surprisingly wide variation in flavours. Blanco (silver or white) tequila is best used for mixing, while reposado (meaning “rested”) is ideal for shots and añejo, or aged and matured tequilas are best for sipping.
As with all spirits, it’s advisable to purchase reputable, premium brands that you can trust. To ensure your tequila is genuine and top quality, simply check the label to check the origin of the manufacturer. This is the official Mexican seal of authenticity.
Capture the spirit of this adventurous and lively drink and celebrate the spirit of Mexico by trying authentic Mexican tequila with these classic tequila drinks. Of course, as with all alcohol beverages, be sure to drink responsibly.