Tequila - America's First Indigenous Spirit
Tequila was originated in the 16th century in the area were the city of Tequila is currently located. However, the city itself was established officially only in 1656. Aztecs had made an alcoholic beverage using the agave plant which they called octi (later - pulque) long before the Spanish arrived in 1521. When the conquistadors ran out of brandy brought from Spain, they began to distill that agave beverage to produce liquor, which proved to be America's first indigenous distilled alcoholic drink.
Actually, tequila is only one type of mezcal, which is any distilled alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant. The difference is that tequila is produced in accordance with strict standards set by the Tequila Regulatory Council, and is allowed to be produced only on certain territories of Mexico. Tequila is also required to be made using at least 51% blue agave, the rest can be substituted by maize or sugarcane. However, some premium tequilas are 100% blue agave which is stated on their labels.
There are for main categories of tequila:
- "oro" ("gold") is unaged tequila. Caramel, fructose, glycerin and wood flavoring can be added to imitate aged tequila.
- "blanco" ("white") or plata ("silver") tequila is not aged white spirit without any additives.
- "reposado" ("rested") tequila is aged a minimum of 2 months but less than a year in oak barrels.
- "anejo" ("aged" or "vintage") tequila is aged 1 to 3 years.
- "extra-anejo" ("extra-aged" or "vintage") tequila is aged for 3 or more years; a new category established in March, 2006.
There is a common misconception about a ‘worm' in some tequila bottles. In fact only some other types of mezcal were ever sold with that ‘worm', which is actually the larval form of moth that lives on the agava plant, and that was only a marketing trick in the 1940's. The misconception continues despite all efforts made to represent tequila as a premium product.
Currently tequila is the main ingredient of many mixed drinks and cocktails. However, true lovers enjoy it served neat with salt and a slice of lemon or lime. The drinker licks the back of his hand below the index finger, pours on the salt, then licks it off, drinks tequila shot and quickly bites the fruit. The salt smoothes the burn and the citrus balances the flavor. However, this is not common with aged tequilas due to their rich and smooth flavor.