Who first made tequila - the Aztecs or the Spanish?

Long before the Spanish arrived in North America, the Aztecs made a fermented drink from the agave plant called pulque. BUT, the Spanish where the first to distill the agave plant around 1521 after they ran out of European-style brandy.

Tequila was first mass-produced by Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle around 1600 and was one of North America's first indigenous distilled spirits. The drink as we know it today hit the U.S. market in 1873 thanks to Don Cenobio Sauza, founder of Sauza Tequila.

True of False - tequila is made from a cactus?

FALSE! Many people mistakenly think tequila is made from a type of cactus. In fact, tequila is made from blue agave plants which are much closely related to other succulent plants like lilies and aloe.

In the tequila making process, the leaves of the agave are cut away from the heart or piña of the plant. The piña (which can weigh 70–200 lbs.) is then cooked, crushed and the juice extracted. It's this juice that is fermented and turned into tequila.

Does tequila have to be from Tequila?

Well, kind of. According to Mexican law, tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco, which is where the town of Tequila is located, and limited regions in the states Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.

The United States recognizes Mexico's claim to international rights to the word "tequila" and has an agreement that it can be shipped to the U.S. for bottling. However, Mexico promises to pursue legal action against anyone attempting to make tequila in other countries.

How many blue agave plants are harvested in a year?

In the state of Jalisco, more than 300 million blue agave plants are harvested every year. That's a lot of tequila! This region of Mexico has the perfect arid climate and volcanic soil to produce large, succulent agave plants.

An agave plant can take 8–10 years to fully mature. Specially trained men, called jimadors, tend and harvest the plants. They have to know when the plant is ripe and perfectly ready for tequila production. With their special (and extremely sharp) spades, they dig out the plant by hand, cut off the leaves and put it on the truck…next stop, tequila!

Do you sip it or mix it?

Yes! Whether you want an evening nightcap of straight tequila on the rocks or an afternoon blended drink, there's a tequila for you. In the U.S., tequila is probably best known for being mixed with lime and some sort of sweetener to make a margarita. However, many brands of tequila are barrel-aged and delicious to sip from a snifter like a Scotch whiskey or Cognac.

What's the difference between blanco, reposado and enejo tequilas?

Blanco or silver tequilas are clear and may have been aged for a couple of months in a steel container, but have never been put into wood barrels. These tequilas deliver the pure, unchanged flavor of the distilled blue agave plant.

Reposado has been aged for less than a year or as little as a couple of months in wood barrels. The shorter aging process allows for some additional flavors to develop within the tequila.

A˜ejo tequila has been aged in a wood barrel for a minimum of one year. The longer aging process allows deeper and more complex flavors to develop. This tequila would be a good candidate for sipping.

Isn't all tequila 100% blue agave?

The short answer is no. First thing you should know before you buy tequila is that in order for it to be called a tequila it need only contain 51% distilled blue agave.

With that said, there are two types of tequila on the market. The first is known as a mixto and is the obligatory percentage of blue agave mixed with other ingredients such as artificial coloring, flavors and neutral cane spirit. This addition of other ingredients dilutes the flavor of the tequila and also adds sugar, which might lead to a pesky morning-after headache. The second type of tequila is labeled 100% blue agave—and they mean it! You're guaranteed no additional ingredients or flavorings, so you get the true taste of the distilled blue agave.

Why is there a worm in my tequila bottle?

Probably because it's not tequila! If there's a worm in your bottle, you most likely have a mezcal. A close cousin to tequila, mezcal is a term used to describe any liquor distilled from agave plants from any region, although it mostly comes from Oaxaca. All tequila is a mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila.

The worm is pickled and called a gusano. Some say it was originally added to prove the high proof of the alcohol content. Others claim it adds flavor and some just use it as a marketing gimmick. There are those who consume the worm believing it to be an aphrodisiac. While that's not true, it certainly won't hurt you if you feel the need to eat it.

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Tequila 101

Tequila! Whether you're sipping it, mixing it or shooting it, the friendly Señor Tequila bartenders can help you pick the right one.

The distilled liquor we now call tequila has had a long and interesting history. There's much to know before you start drinking. START HERE to test your skills.

Be safe—don't drink and drive!
We'll be happy to call you a cab.