History of Tequila: Part One

Man harvesting agave

In the United States, Tequila is a beloved and revered spirit. Oftentimes, Tequila is imbibed during festivities and fiestas, either alone, with a pinch of salt and squeeze of lime juice, or in a refreshing margarita. But where did Tequila come from and who created it? Let’s dive into the history of Tequila, beginning with the spirit’s origin story.

1000 BC to 200 AD:

The story of Tequila begins with the Aztecs, a civilization native to Mesoamerica, whose advancements in social, political, and financial areas were among the greatest on the American continent.

The Aztecs were using the fibrous leaves of the maguey, a partiocular species of agave, ’to make clothing, rope, and mats. The sharp tips of the plant were used as needles.

Eventually, the Aztecs learned to ferment agave sap into pulque. Pulque became so important that it became quasi religious. In fact, two gods were created because of it, Mayahuel and Patecatl.  Mayahuel is the goddess of the maguey (one specie of agave) and Patecatl is the god of pulque. The Aztecs had many gods, but few for agricultural products – like maize and pulque – telling just how important agave and pulque were to this ancient civilization. Unsurprisingly, pulque came to hold prominence in religious ceremonies and rituals, with only priests being allowed to drink it.

1400s and 1500s AD:

When the invading Spaniards ran out of their precious brandy, they turned to the local fermented spirit, pulque. The European continent had been practicing distillation for centuries, and the arriving Spaniards turned to pulque in their search for a native alcoholic drink. As a result of distillation using semi-primitive mud stills, agave wine became the first indigenous distilled spirit.

 Agave wine evolved into Tequila, named after the town in the state of Jalisco.  Tequila was the site of the first large-scale distillery, built in the early 1600s by the Marquis of Altamira.  Many archaeologists have identified prehispanic stills in Amatitán, a town outside of Tequila, suggesting Amatitán is the true historic birthplace of Tequila.

Check back in soon to learn more about the history of Tequila, as it grew from its humble beginning in Amatitán to become the savored spirit known worldwide.

History of the Martini

Tequila Martini made with organic 100% de agave cocktail

Like that of many cocktails, there are a number of origin stories for the martini.  While it may impossible to confirm the veracity of the following stories, they are entertaining nonetheless, and we can’t thank whoever invented the cocktail enough. Without the martini, we wouldn’t have the Tequila Martini!

One story traces the martini’s origins to Martini di Arma di Taggia, a bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City prior to World War I.  His cocktail blended London dry gin, Noilly Prat Vermouth and orange bitters – similar to the modern-day Martini.  Another story places the origin in 1863, with Martini & Rossi, an Italian sweet vermouth, that customers would have ordered alongside gin.  A “gin and martini” may have evolved into the martini, a likely theory given the simplicity of cocktail names during the 19th century. 

The city of Martinez, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, claims the predecessor of the Martini was created by a local bartender named Julio Richelieu when a miner, who’d recently struck it rich during the California Gold Rush, asked for a glass of champagne.  Without any in town, Julio Richelieu whipped up a “Martinez Special”, a drink the miner recalled the next day having exceeded his expectations.  When he tried to order it in San Francisco, the bartender – obviously never having prepared a “Martinez Special” before – created one with one-part dry wine and three parts gin.   Yet another claims the drink was named after the strong recoil of the Martini & Henry rifle, in use by the British Army between 1870 and 1890.  Wherever and whenever the martini was truly first created, it took years before the ratio of dry vermouth to gin reached a more modern level.  A traditional martini is made with gin and dry vermouth at a 1:1 ratio and served cold with a green olive or lemon garnish.  The level of gin has increased with regularity over the years, with personal taste and subjectivity requesting ratios of 3 or 5:1, gin to vermouth.

While there isn’t a clear story on how Tequila came to replace gin as the standout spirit of the traditional martini, there’s no doubt that it is a variation on the classic cocktail worth a taste.   The Tequila Martini substitutes gin with Blanco Tequila, keeps the dry vermouth, and adds a lime garnish.  You’ll find the natural citrus and herbal flavors of our never-aged organic Blanco Tequila are well-balanced by the dry vermouth.  For a hot summer day, this cool cocktail will keep you feeling refreshed (and ready for a fiesta).  

Tequila Martini

Tequila Martini

Recipe:

Instructions:

  • Pour organic Blanco Tequila and dry vermouth into a mixing glass filled with ice.
  • Stir and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  • Garnish with a lime twist and enjoy!