The word ‘tequila’ conjures up images of shot glasses, wedges of lime, and salt - but have you ever considered the origins of this mighty drink, and how it’s made? To celebrate World Tequila Day, we’re diving into the rich and ancient history of tequila, while answering some of your most asked questions about this fantastic spirit.

Tequila Timeline

While many of us know that tequila comes from Mexico, you’d be shocked by just how long its history is. The fermentation of the agave plant (the plant used in the creation of tequila) has been a part of Mexican culture as far back as 200 A.D.

The Aztec people used agave to create ropes, mats and possibly wigs. But most importantly, it was used to create an alcoholic drink named pulque. This drink was so important to the Aztec people that they had two gods devoted it - Mayahuel, goddess of the agave, and her husband Patecatl, the god of pulque.

The Aztecs and natives continued to enjoy this drink until the early 1500s, when the Spaniards invaded and conquered the Aztec civilization, claiming Mexico for the Spanish empire.

The Spaniards were great fans of whisky, but when their sweet and rich spirit came to an end they needed to find a replacement, quickly. Having brought with them their knowledge of distilling drinks, they took notice of the agave plant and how the Aztecs used it to create drinks. Proceeding to make their own brandy, with blue agave and dirt, a drink which became known as mezcals.

Roughly 100 years later, Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira built the first large-scale distillery - in a location now known as the city of Tequila. A few years later, in 1608, the Spanish King, Carlos IV, granted the first license to commercially sell tequila to the Cuervo family.

Tequila became increasingly popular in the United States, especially due to alcohol prohibition, where Americans who couldn’t get their hands on whiskey or gins turned south, trying to get some sweet tequila! Many Americans travelled to Mexico simply to have a good time! Amongst these, James Graham, a newspaperman, took a trip to Tijuana. Where, in an Irish pub, he met a man named Madden. Madden and his pub were famous in the area for his creation, the “Tequila Daisy” a drink created on accident but loved and celebrated by many. You might know this by a more popular name, the Margarita!

In 1974, the Mexican government finally declared the term “Tequila” as intellectual property, meaning, tequila could only be made in Mexico.

Types

There are two types of tequila, “Mixtos”, which are composed of at least 51% agave in the mixture, and tequila made with 100% Agave. Amongst these two types of tequila, there are four categories, which differ according to the ageing period.

Blanco: Unaged; stored immediately after distillation
Reposado: Aged between 2 and 11 months
Añejo: Aged between 1 to 3 years
Extra Añejo: Aged for a minimum of three years

The main differences between these is something you can spot instantly, the colour. Gold tequila is brown in colour and has a smooth sweet taste. Gold tequila tends to have less than 100% agave and is aged in wooden barrels before being sold. 

What’s With The Worm?

Ever seen a scorpion or a worm inside a tequila bottle? Yes, you read that right, some mezcals are sold with a worm or scorpion inside. This does not add to the flavour or anything, but in fact, is used as a marketing stunt. Tequila cannot be sold with these insects inside, only mezcal.

Which One Is For Me?

Well, the key here is your own personal taste. How do you enjoy your spirits? As a shot or a cocktail? If you are looking for something smooth and slightly sweet, aged ‘golden’ tequila is the one for you. It’s easier to drink and can be used in cocktails to add sweetness. But if you are looking for something to enjoy in a cocktail, not too sweet and that is also slightly cheaper, a ‘silver’ tequila is for you.

Our Favourite Cocktails

The Original Margarita Recipe

Ingredients
30 ml Cointreau
50 ml Blanco Tequila
20 ml Fresh Lime Juice
Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add a few cubes of ice and shake well.
Once this is done, wet the rim of your margarita glass with lime, and dip into a pile of salt.
Strain your cocktail into the glass, and add a lime wheel for decoration.
Garnish with salt and a lime wheel.

Tequila Sunrise:

Ingredients:
Ice Cubes
50 ml Tequila
100 ml of Orange Juice
15 ml of Grenadine
Instructions:
Pour tequila and orange juice into a tall glass and stir well. Pour in the grenadine around the edges slowly. This causes it to sink and gradually rise, giving it its iconic “sunrise” look. Enjoy!

Where can I buy it?

We have great news! We are partnering with Cointreau and VIVIR Tequila and have created an incredible new cocktail kit - The Cointreau Margarita Box with VIVIR Tequila which you can find here
Still, looking for more options? We have a great range of tequila gift and cocktails on our site here.
We hope to have answered some questions you may have regarding tequila, just in time to celebrate National Tequila Day.

Fun facts

  1. 1. In Mexico, tequila shots are drunk ‘neat’, meaning, without lime and salt

  2. 2. Agave is part of the lily family. So, tequila isn’t made from a cactus!

  3. 3. It takes 8-12 years for the Blue Agave plant to mature enough to make Tequila

  4. 4. The world’s most expensive tequila is called "The Diamond Sterling," - a one-of-a-kind bottle that is worth $3.5 million. In case you were wondering, the bottle is encrusted with 4,000 diamonds, and is made of platinum!