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A History of Tequila
Experts commonly trace the emergence of Tequila to the early 16th century. While there was a long tradition among the indigenous population in what is today known as Mexico of fermenting the sap of the agave plant, it was not until after the Spanish Conquest that the antecedent to modern Tequila was developed.
Tequila's origins may be found in a marriage of traditional fermenting practices developed by the native population of the Tequila region with the knowledge of European style distillation brought by the Spaniards into the New World. Legend has it that the emergence of Tequila came when local Conquistadors encouraged the process once they began to run out of their supplies of imported brandy and other spirits. The result: Tequila, North America's first distilled drink.
The Tequila region in and around today's state of Jalisco was originally dubbed New Galicia by the Spanish conquerors. The town which now bears the name "Tequila" was originally founded in 1656. By the 1700's, Tequila was already being exported to further flung locations as the town of Tequila lay directly on the route from the interior to the recently established Pacific port of San Blas.
By 1758, the Spanish Crown was granting rights to tracts of land specifically for the cultivation of the agave plant. By 1821, when Mexico gained independence, Tequila began its rise to prominence within Mexican borders due in part to a sudden decrease in access to Spanish imports.
It was not until the Mexican Revolution during the early part of the 20th century that Tequila became so strongly identified with national pride and secured a place as Mexico's choice spirit. In both factual narratives and dramatic myths surrounding the victories and deprivations of the Revolution years, Tequila plays a central role as the patriotic beverage of celebration, identification and unity.
During the revolutionary period efforts were initiated to regulate the Tequila industry. Initially two regulatory bodies were formed that eventually evolved into the Tequila Regulatory Council (www.crt.org.mx). In 1944, the Mexican government stipulated that any product bearing the name "Tequila" must be distilled from agave grown in the state of Jalisco. In 1947, the first written standards for Tequila production were established stipulating that no Tequila could contain less than 51% blue agave. Top of the line Tequilas are made of 100% blue agave, a fact that must be shown on the label.
FUN FACTS ABOUT TEQUILA
1. The Mexican government holds exclusive rights over the name 'tequila.'
Even if one managed to find suitable conditions for growing the plant, the producers would be sued if they even attempted to bottle and sell it as the real thing.
2. The Aztecs discovered the 'pulque' when lightning struck an agave plant, cooking the insides of the plant and causing the juice to seep out.
Seeing as how it was sweet and mildly alcoholic, the Aztecs believed the drink to be a gift from the gods that opened communication between mortals and them.
3. Archaeologists state that pulque was discovered by the Aztecs 1,000 years ago and agave has been cultivated by them for roughly 9,000 years.
4. Tequila does go bad!
If you're planning on opening a bottle of tequila, you'd better be in the mood to consume it entirely relatively soon. Basically, after about a month or two, oxidation and evaporation diminish the quality of the tequila and destroy the agave profile of the alcohol.