[Spanish] plural tequilas

An alcoholic drink made from fermented sap of agave.

Tequila is a distilled product of the agave plant native to Mexico. Tequila is enjoyed all over the world in many different types of cocktails. Because it can be purchased for a variety of price ranges, tequila can be found among all socio-economic classes and cultures across the globe.

The most popular variety of tequila comes from the blue agave plant cultivated in the region of Tequila and was introduced to the US and Europe in the 1870s. Tequila became a “global commodity” (Medina-Mora) in 1970, when its sales spread to more than 40 countries where over 47 million liters are exported. Over eleven million pounds are harvested every year for use in Tequila production and it takes each plant a period of seven to nine years to mature (Blue). One liter of tequila requires about 15 pounds of agave piña. Mexican law deems that all Tequila must contain at least 51% agave and anything less is designated as “mixto” (Weeks).

Tequila is made from the heart, or piña, of the agave plant. When the piña is ripe it shrinks and changes color to maroon and red spots begin to appear. A mature piña usually weighs 80 to more than 300 pounds. It is cut from the stalk by harvesters called “jımadores,” using a sharp, long-handled tool called a coa (Chadwick). Harvesting in Mexico is skill passed down for many generations and often fields will have multiple generations of jimadors tending to them. When the plants are ready, the jimador “tips the plant and trims away the leaves, then the rhizomes. Using his razor-sharp coa, he chops the leaves back close to the head, then turns the plant over to chop away the remainder” (Blue 7) A skillful jimador may be able to trim a large agave plant in less than six minutes!

During the Mexican Revolution, tequila gained national importance and become a symbol of national identity and pride for Mexicans. The passion for French products was “replaced by patriotic fervor for Mexican goods and prohibition in the Unıted States further boosted tequila’s popularity when it was smuggled across the border” (Blue 7). After World War II, tequila’s popularity grew even more as spirits from Europe became harder for Americans to import.

Perhaps, the most famous drink that is made from tequila is the margarita. A classic margarita is a Mexican cocktail containing tequila and lime juice, often served frozen or in a glass over ice with salt on the rim. Although there are many stories about the origins of the margarita, one popular myth claims it was invented in 1938 at the Rancho La Gloria Hotel, halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico, by Carlos "Danny" Herrera, for a former Ziegfeld dancer named Marjorie King (Blue). Margaritas are most commonly served in Mexican restaurants and enjoyed especially in celebrations for Cinco de Mayo (Weeks).



Lexicographer: Ipek Birol, Tulane University


Works Cited 

"Storm in a Shot Glass." The Economist Jan 21 2012: 74. ProQuest. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

Medına Mora, Marıa Elena“tequıla: A Natural and Cultural Hıstory.” Socıety for the Study of Addıctıon. 100, 1562–1566

Rogers, Monica Kass. "Tempting tequila pairings." Cheers May 2013: 15. Business Insights: Essentials. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

Weeks, Linton. “Alcoholidays In America: ¡Viva El Tequila Julep!” NPR. 2012.

Blue, Anthony Dias (2010). "The Complete Book of Spirits: A Guide to Their History, Production, and Enjoyment". HarperCollins. 7 Oct. 2013.



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