Tequila’s roots go back a thousand years to a cactus plant that served as the basis for pulque, a form of Mexican beer. The Spaniards distilled pulque in the sixteenth century to make tequila. A captain under Cortez, Bernal Díaz, crooned that it was a “nectar of the Aztec gods,” which only proves that it takes more than nectar to keep your country from being conquered. To set the record straight, tequila is distilled only from the blue agave cactus plant. Mezcal, often bottled with its trademark agave worm, may be produced from any agave plant. At maturity, the plant is denuded of its prickly leaves, and the core of the pant is heated to extract the sap. The sap is then fermented, distilled, and ready for drinking. Aged tequila is stored in oak barrels that impart a golden color and delicate flavor to the tequila.

As late as 1968, Alec Waugh in his book Wines and Spirits declared: “Tequila is not a drink that is ever likely to be popular among North Americans, whose palates have not been hardened by the unrestrained use of chili.” Moreover, it wasn’t until 1975 that tequila was recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms as a distinctive product of Mexico. With a nod to the Margarita, tequila is now in the top ten best-selling spirits in the United States and is steadily gaining favor throughout the world. Hot on the heels of designer gins and vodkas, unblended “single-barrel” tequilas are now being distilled and sold for upward of $50 a bottle —without a worm.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com