If anyplace deserves to be called “Margaritaville” it’s Puerto Vallarta which is in Jalisco, birthplace of tequila. Once looked down on in Mexico as a drink for the poor . . . and looked down on in the US as a drink for college students who just wanted to get wasted . . . tequila is growing in popularity and in price. Tequila is the fastest growing spirit in the world and is gaining status as something more than a “party” drink. You can buy an aged tequila in a crystal bottle for as much as $1000 . . . not exactly something to take to a fraternity party.
I have lectures on rum and tequila that I do on board, and usually I have the Shops on Board provide tastings after the talks. On this particular cruise I’ve combined both talks into one called “Spirits of The Americas.” I’ve never liked tequila so my interest is strictly “academic”. But since I’m relaxing on the beach today in Puerto Vallarta, I thought you might be interested in some tequila factoids.
Just as cognac is brandy from specific grapes in a select region of France, only liquor made from the blue agave in specified regions in Mexico can be called tequila. Agave liquors from other regions of Mexico are known as mescal or “mezcal”.
Inigenous people fermented aguamiel from the local maguey plants into a drink called pulque. Distillation of pulque may have originated by the Conquistadors as early as the 1520s. Mezcal wine, tequila’s grandparent, was first produced after the Spanish Conquest. By the mid 1500’s it was variously called mezcal brandy, agave wine, mezcal tequila and finally simply tequila.
Jose Antonio Cuervo, first licensed producer with rights to cultivate land from King of Spain. In 1795, his son Jose Maria Cuervo got the first license to produce mezcal wine from the Crown from the first official Mexican distillery, Casa Cuervo.
Demand for tequila and the seven year growing cycle of agave has resulted in prices increasing as much as 300% and made “agave rustling” a lucrative enterprise. Growers are actually implanting computer chips in plants to monitor their growth and help prevent rustling.
And the “worm”? Well it isn’t a worm the the larvae of an insect that once in a while appeared in a bottle that should have been rejected. Once marketers discovered that these “defective” bottles were in high demand they started making sure every bottle had a “worm.” Marketing genius!