All blogs are property of authors and copying is not permitted.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Everything You Wanted To Know About Tequila But Were Afraid To Ask

Today, July 24, is National Tequila Day. Sounds fun, right? Back in the day, I drank my share of tequila, with salt and lemon.  As a nod to my younger days, I thought I’d research the history of tequila.

Tequila is the name for a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, 40 miles northwest of Guadalajara. The red volcanic soil in the surrounding region is particularly well-suited to the growing of the blue agave plant. (Wikipedia)

Mezcal wine, tequila’s grandparent, was first produced only a few decades after the Spaniards came to the New World in 1521. Agave played a much larger role than the source of an alcoholic drink. Its leaves were used for a hemp-like fiber to make mats, clothing, rope and paper. It was also the source of the nutrient and vitamin-rich brew, pulque. (Source: Los Cabos Magazine)

The distillation of pulque into something stronger may have originated by the Conquistadors as early as the 1520s. You’re all familiar with Cuervo Tequila. Jose Antonio Cuervo was the first licensed manufacturer of tequila. He received the rights to cultivate a parcel of land from the King of Spain in 1758. Today, Cuervo is the largest manufacturer of tequila in the world. (Source: Los Cabos Magazine)

Mexican laws state that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco and limited municipalities in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Planting, tending, and harvesting the agave plant remains a manual effort, largely unchanged by modern farm machinery and relying on centuries-old know-how.
The men who harvest it, the jimadores [ximaˈðoɾes], have intimate knowledge of how the plants should be cultivated, passed down from generation to generation. (Wikipedia)

"Tequila worm" misconception

A young agave plant
Another interesting error is an urban legend related to a worm. The worm-in-the-bottle myth is old and tired. The truth has been broadcast and expounded for years by the cognoscenti of tequila, in newspapers, magazines and on the internet. Yes, it’s true, some American-bottled brands put one in their bottle to impress the gringos and boost sales, but it was a marketing ploy developed in the 1940s, not a Mexican tradition.

Sometimes however, there is a worm, properly a butterfly caterpillar, in some types of mezcal. You may also get a small bag of worm salt and chile powder tied to a mezcal bottle. There are two types of worms in mezcal: the red, gusano rojo—considered superior because it lives in the root and heart of the maguey—and the less-prized white or gold gusano de oro, which lives on the leaves. The red gusano turns pale in the mezcal, the gold turns ashen-gray. Both larvae are commonly eaten as food and are sold in Zapotec markets.

Yes, you’re supposed to eat the worm in mezcal. Don’t worry: it’s quite well pickled and free of pesticides (they’re often raised just for use in mezcal, cooked and pickled in alcohol for a year). But dispel any idea it has any magical or psychotropic properties, that it’s an aphrodisiac or the key to an "unseen world." It’s merely protein and alcohol—but it’s very rich in imagery. Note: Yuck.
In Mexico, the most traditional way to drink tequila is neat, without lime and salt. Outside Mexico, a single shot of tequila is often served with salt and a slice of lime. This is called tequila cruda and is sometimes referred to as "training wheels", "lick-sip-suck", or "lick-shoot-suck" (referring to the way in which the combination of ingredients is imbibed). The drinkers moisten the back of their hands below the index finger (usually by licking) and pour on the salt. Then the salt is licked off the hand, the tequila is drunk, and the fruit slice is quickly bitten. Groups of drinkers often do this simultaneously. (Wikipedia)
Note: I always thought you used lemon. That’s what we did. We used to drink it this way in groups in a bar, mostly the summer of 1971, at the Jersey Shore.

Now that you know all the important facts about tequila, go out and celebrate National Tequila Day.

While we’re on the subject of celebrating, I’m celebrating the release of Letterbox Love Stories, Volume 1. This anthology of romances from nine authors all over the Globe has stories that span the centuries, something for every reading taste. I’m proud to be in this set. I’ve read all the stories, and they’re fabulous. It’s on sale now for a special introductory price of only 99 cents. Get your copy today!

What if a life-changing letter arrived in today's mail? Now imagine it leads to love and adventure! From the northern British Isles, across the mainland of Europe, and on to Turkey, nine international Award-winning and Multi-published Romance Authors share spellbinding love stories told across time. This collection includes contemporary, historical and futuristic time travel romances touched by magic. And each begins with a letter... 

 Come visit me at:


R. Ann Siracusa said...

I loved your blog. We often have a misunderstanding of how a tradition started. But once the practice is out there and popular, it's fair game for changing. Is there any international restriction on who can use the name "tequila"? Can we make tequila in the US (for example) and still call it tequila?

Melissa Keir said...

I've not been a "to-kill-ya" girl...It has such a kick for me. What a fun history lesson though. I can't imagine some people are raising worms only to have them pickled in alcohol and put in tequila. What a fun job!

Enjoy your box set! Sounds like a wonderful group of stories!

Cara Marsi said...

Ann, I'm not sure of the answer to your question. I found this on Wikipedia:Mexican laws state that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco and limited municipalities in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.[3] Tequila is recognized as a Mexican designation of origin product in more than 40 countries.[4] It is protected through NAFTA in Canada and the United States,[5] through bilateral agreements with individual countries such as Japan and Israel,[5] and has been a protected designation of origin product in the constituent countries of the European Union since 1997.[5]

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Melissa. The part about the worms is particularly yucky.

Paris said...

What a fun post. Tequila was a favorite of mine during the seventies and we did the whole lemon, salt suck routine but I don't think I ever saw a worm in the bottle. If I had, I would have started drinking something else! The idea behind your letterbox love stories is fabulous and I can't wait to read them. Good luck!

Gemma Juliana said...

What a fun and informative blog post, Cara. I've often wondered about tequila... although I live in Texas I've rarely had any.

The exclusivity situation sounds similar to the rules attached to using the word "champagne" on sparkling wines from anywhere but the Champagne region of France (and using their methods)-- it is illegal. Apparently some alcohol producers in other places, including in the USA, are cracking down with exclusivity of name now, too.

As for the worms... no thanks! :)

jean hart stewart said...

Love knowing more about tequila...It used to be my favorite drink, but now seems too strong to me. I'm a vodka girl now that I'm getting older, but we used to cross the border to get the good tequila. Now even border-crossing is not that much fun.

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Paris. I loved having shots of tequila at the bars in the 70's. Such fun. I'm with you about seeing a worm in the bottle. I hope you enjoy our stories.

Thanks, Gemma. The restrictions on tequila reminded me of the ones on champagne too.

Thanks, Jean. I'd like to try a few shots of tequila for old times' sake. My preferred drink back in the day was gin and tonic. Now, I stick mostly to wine. I'll bet you got some good tequila when you crossed the border. Don't think I'd want to cross now.

vicki batman said...

Hi, Cara! I like tequila in margaritas, but that's about it. I did see the agave fields in Mexico and it was interesting how they prepare the plant.

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Vicki. I like margaritas sometimes, but I find them too sweet. I do like straight shots of tequila. I'd love to see the agave fields.

Share buttons