In the 1500s, the Spanish consumed brandy as they slaughtered and dominated the Aztecs in Central Mexico. During their conquests, they noticed Aztecs drank a fermented sap called pulque from a certain plant called ‘the maguey plant’. The Aztecs worshipped the goddess of maguey, Mayaheul, and her husband, Patecatl, the god of pulque. Aztec priests consumed pulque during religious ceremonies and offered it to their sacrificial victims. It was also an essential part of celebrations for bravery and wisdom. The Spaniards were intrigued by its cultural roles, mainly because they didn’t have a history of their own.
During their destruction of the Aztec Empire, the Spanish consumed imported brandy, but when their supply ran out, they tried pulque. The high alcohol level of their brandy spoiled the Spaniards appreciation for the much lower alcohol content of the fermented maguey. They gathered the pulque into their brandy distilling pots andhoped the distillation process would increase the alcohol level of the indigenous beverage. The distillation increased the alcohol level
significantly enough to please the Spaniards. In the drunken joy of their success, they also renamed the maguey plant ‘agave’, a Greek word for noble. The distilled version of pulque and the renaming of its source plant, the maguey, distanced their history with the Aztecs and North America. Pulque was the first alcoholic beverage of North America. One of the oldest records of it was discovered in 1968 during an excavation of the Great Pyramid of Cholula seventy miles east of Mexico City. It was a mural over 1,800 years old called The Drinkers. Archeological findingsindicate maguey was cultivated asfar back as 9,000 years ago.
The Spanish Conquistador
Evidence shows it was used for foodas well as cloth and twine fiber. The Spanish Conquistador’s primary interest in the plant wasfor alcohol production. Their alcohol grew in popularity. Spanishroyalty desired it and began toimport it. Several kinds of agaveplants were used to produce the alcohol. However, blue agave, grown in the Mexican highlands in Jalisco surrounding the city of Tequila, was exceptional in producinghigh quality alcohol. Inthe 1600s, a factory was built to produce alcohol exclusively fromblue agave. In 1873, this drink was called tequila, Aztec for “place of tribute” to distinguish it from alcohol made with other agave plants. Mexican law only allows alcohol made from blue agave to be labeled as tequila, whereas other agave alcohols are called mescal which derives from the Aztec word mexcalli meaning “oven cooked maguey”
The Historic Ties
Despite the Spanish Conquistadors attempts to remove the historic ties of pulque and the maguey plant, Mexico has retained the identity of tequila as apart of their national identity. This is a symbol of Mexico’s resiliency to endure and survive despite the loss of an ancient civilization. It is also a proud tribute to the powers of the maguey, now the agave, as it continues to thrive over thousands of years. Taking forward the legacy over the years tequila has been transformed into four different categories these are-
1. Tequila Reposado
This type of tequila is aged in barrels for few months but not longer than a year. The type of barrel used is typically white oak or French oak. Tequila reposado has a somewhat golden tint to it, due to aging in the wooden barrels. It also has a even taste, making it great for sipping on the rocks or using in a mixed drink.
The most affordable types of tequila on the market fall into the category of “tequila blanco.” That’s because, unlike other types of tequila, the blanco type is typically bottled the soonest and is therefore unaged. Some people actually prefer tequila blanco due to the fact that the flavors of the agave are in their purest form, but others prefer tequilas that have been aged because they tend to taste smoother.
This type is same as tequila blanco with some of the ingredients being added as a flavor before bottling. Some of the common ingredients are caramel, syrup, oak extract etc. This type of tequila is used in mixed drinks.
Unlike tequila blanco and joven tequila anejo is aged in barrels for at least a year before bottling most of the times its aged for three years as tequila ages in the oak barrels, it turns from a clear color to a more golden color. The oak-barrel aging also results in the infusion of tannins into the alcohol, which results in a much smoother taste, making it ideal for sipping on the rocks.