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.