tequila n : Mexican liquor made from fermented juices of an Agave plant
- a UK /ˌtəˈki:.lə/, /%t@"ki:.l@/
- Chinese: 龙舌兰酒 (lóng shé lán jiǔ)
- Estonian: tequila, tekiila
- Finnish: tequila
- Japanese: テキーラ
Tequila is a spirit made primarily in the area surrounding Tequila, a town in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, 65 km northwest of Guadalajara and in the highlands of Jalisco. It is made from the blue agave (Agave tequilana azul), which is native to Mexico. Tequila is most often made at a 38–40% alcohol content (76–80 proof), but there are also several varieties of tequila produced with 43–46% alcohol content (86–92 proof).
HistoryTequila was first produced in the 16th century near the location of the city of Tequila, which was not officially established until 1656. The Aztec people had previously made a fermented beverage from the agave plant, which they called octli (later, and more popularly called pulque), long before the Spanish arrived in 1521. When the Spanish conquistadors ran out of their own brandy, they began to distill this agave drink to produce North America's first indigenous distilled spirit.
Some 80 years later, around 1600, Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira, began mass-producing tequila at the first factory in the territory of modern-day Jalisco. By 1608, the colonial governor of Nueva Galicia had begun to tax his products.
The tequila that is popular today was first mass-produced in the early 1800s in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Since 2002, sales of ultra-premium and super-premium tequilas have grown at a rate of 28 percent. That is an average growth rate of 8.6 percent per year, as reported by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. With tequila sales last year projected to fall just short of 10 million cases, sales actually exceeded expectations by reaching well over 10 million cases as shown in the 2007 report by IWSR based on Adam’s Liquor Handbook. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, increasing worldwide popularity of tequila drove corporate interest in the drink. Notable developments as a result included:
- The purchase of Herradura by Brown-Forman for $776 million in September 2006.
- A new NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) for tequila (NOM-006-SCFI-2005) was issued in 2006, and among other changes, introduced a category of tequila called "extra añejo" or "ultra-aged" which must be aged a minimum of 3 years.
- The purchase of the Sauza and El Tesoro brands by massive holding company Fortune Brands.
Although some tequilas have remained as family owned brands, most well-known tequila brands are owned by large multinational corporations. However, there are over 100 distilleries making over six hundred brands of tequila in Mexico and over 2,000 brand names have been registered.
2006 Tequila Trade AgreementOn January 17, 2006 the United States and Mexico signed an agreement allowing the continued bulk import of tequila into the United States. Without this agreement all tequila would have had to be bottled in Mexico. However, bulk importing applies to "well tequila" which must include a minimum of 51% agave. 100% agave tequilas must be bottled in Mexico. In addition to allowing bulk import, the agreement also created a “tequila bottlers registry” that identifies approved bottlers of tequila.
Other key elements of the agreement include:
- The end of restrictions of bulk tequila exports to the United States;
- A prohibition on Mexican regulation of tequila labeling or marketing, as well as the labeling, formulation, and marketing of distilled spirits specialty products outside of Mexico;
- Continuation of current practice with respect to addressing Mexican concerns regarding the manufacturing of tequila in the United States; and
- Establishment of a working group to monitor the implementation of the agreement.
- For more detail on TMA, see the entry in Tequila agave
Types of tequilaTequila is usually bottled in one of five categories:
- oro ("gold") – un-aged "blanco" tequila, blended with rested or aged tequilas, and often with caramel coloring, sugar-based syrup, glycerin, and/or oak extract added so as to resemble aged tequila;
- reposado ("rested") – aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels;
- añejo ("aged" or "vintage") – aged a minimum of one year, but less than 3 years in oak barrels;
- extra añejo ("extra aged" or "ultra aged") – aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels. This category was established in March 2006.
It is a common misconception that some tequilas contain a 'worm' in the bottle. Only certain mezcals, usually from the state of Oaxaca, are ever sold con gusano, and that only began as a marketing gimmick in the 1940s. The worm is actually the larval form of the moth Hypopta agavis that lives on the agave plant. Finding one in the plant during processing indicates an infestation and, correspondingly, a lower quality product. (Note: for more information on how tequila is made, see mezcal.) However this misconception continues, and even with all the effort and marking to represent tequila as a premium — similar to the way Cognac is viewed in relation to brandy — there are some opportunist producers for the shooters and fun market who blur these boundaries.
Types and brands
There are two basic categories of tequila: mixtos and 100% Agave. Mixtos use up to 49% of other sugars in the fermentation process and Agave taking up the remainder. Agave sugar is glucose-based, and is easier for the human body to break down. Mixtos use both glucose and fructose sugars.
There is a very distinctive taste difference between the different types of tequila. The most notable is a "bite" for which tequila is often remembered. This "bite" is a characteristic of lower quality mixto tequilas, which use additives — commonly grain alcohols — that are less expensive than 100% agave.
With 100% agave tequila, blanco or plata is harsher with the bold flavors of the distilled agave up front, while reposado and añejo are smoother, subtler, and more complex. As with other spirits that are aged in casks, tequila takes on the flavors of the wood, while the harshness of the alcohol mellows. The major flavor distinction with 100% agave tequila is the base ingredient, which is more vegetal than grain spirits (and often more complex).
- See also List of cocktails with tequila
Outside Mexico, a single shot of tequila is often served with salt and a slice of lime. This is called "tequila cruda" and is sometimes referred to as "training wheels", or a "lick-sip-suck" or "lick-shoot-suck" (referring to the way in which the combination of ingredients is imbibed). The drinker moistens the back of their hand below the index finger (usually by licking) and pours on the salt. Then the salt is licked off the hand, tequila is drunk and the fruit slice is quickly bitten. It is common for groups of drinkers to do this simultaneously. Drinking tequila in this way is often erroneously called a Tequila Slammer, however this is a mixed tequila and carbonated drink. Though the traditional Mexican shot is straight tequila, lime is the fruit of choice when a chaser must be used. The salt lessens the "burn" of the tequila and the sour fruit balances and enhances the flavor. This is rarely done with aged tequilas due to their smoother character.
In Germany and some other countries, tequila oro (gold) is often consumed with cinnamon before and slices of orange after, while tequila blanco (silver) is still consumed with salt and lime.
In the United States the cinnamon spice is more commonly put on the orange and the tequila is chilled, slam and bite. The Shot is being called Cimmamon (spelled intentionally with the letter M instead of N).
Finally, as with other popular liquors, there are a number of shot-related drinking games and "stunt" drinks such as body shots and the tequila stuntman.
When served neat (without any additional ingredients), tequila is most often served in a narrow shot glass called a caballito ("Little Horse" in Spanish), but can often be found in anything from a snifter to a tumbler.
The Consejo Regulador del Tequila (Tequila Regulatory Council) approved an "official tequila glass" in 2002 called the Ouverture Tequila glass, made by Riedel.
The margarita glass, rimmed with salt, sugar, or plain, is a staple for the entire tequila/fruit mixed drink genre, including the margarita itself.
Other drinksThere are an endless variety of drinks that involve tequila, relying only on the imagination of the preparer. As with most of the hard liquors, there is a martini variant that involves tequila as well as a large number of tequila drinks made by adding a fruit juice such as the Tequila Sunrise. Sodas and other carbonated drinks are a common mixer, as in the Tequila Slammer.
It is a common misconception that tequila is fermented from cactus. The agave plant looks a bit like a cactus, but it is no relation.
Tequila is a common topic of popular culture, ranging from films that simply use the name, such as Tequila Sunrise (1988) to songs about the drink. According to Tom Robbins's book Still Life with Woodpecker tequila is the preferred drink of outlaws. Sandra Lee of the Food Network refers to tequila as "her friend." In song, tequila is diversely portrayed, ranging from Jimmy Buffett's semi-serious Margaritaville to The Eagles' maudlin Tequila Sunrise. The track "Mexican Cousin," off Phish's Round Room pays tribute to the drink stating "Oh tequila, I turn to you like a long lost friend. I wanna kiss my Mexican Cousin once again" and continues to refer to the drink as the band's "Mexican Cousin". Tequila even enters the popular news media. For example, Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic outburst when arrested for drunk driving was attributed to tequila consumption. Sammy Hagar, rock star (singer of the bar anthem "Mas Tequila") and owner of Cabo Wabo Tequila described tequila's stigma as, "the stuff that you go, 'I will never drink that as long as I live,' and you have gotten sick in college on rot-gut tequila." This image of tequila as the instigator of particularly egregious intoxication and hangovers is pervasive in references to the drink in popular culture, this even leads to the chant:
One Tequila Two Tequila Three Tequila Floor! Five Tequila Six Tequila Seven Tequila Morgue!
Additionally, singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette has penned an ode to tequila entitled "On The Tequila" for the Flavors of Entanglement sessions, and says tequila has helped her balance things out in her life.
Tequila plays a role in the climactic scene of "Funhouse", the season two finale of the HBO Original Series The Sopranos. In this episode, the character Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero asks several members of the crew if there is any good tequila available, knowing that he is about to be killed and wanting a final drink with his longtime friends.
In the United States, National Tequila Day is July 24.
Notesreplace broken link with http://www.ianchadwick.com/tequila/index.html
- National Chamber for the Tequila Industry
- Consejo Regulador del Tequila A.C.
- United States and Mexico Reach Agreement on Tequila (PDF)
- Tequila news page – Alcohol and Drugs History Society
- Tequila: Culture and Myths
- Viva Tequila
- TEQUILA.net - Tequila News, Tequila FAQ's, and Tequila Brands Database
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