Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Tequila

Are you one of the millions of fans that make the frozen margarita the most popular cocktail in the world? Well then, aren't you even a little curious about the thing that makes the frozen margarita recipe so, well, intoxicating? TEQUILA!

The Origins of Tequila

Tequila happens to be the oldest distilled drink and the first commercially produced alcohol in North America. Its early ancestor, called pulque, was a vitamin-rich brew made by the pre-Hispanic natives. It was then distilled in the early 1520s by the Conquistadors from Spain. It took on various forms and names, such as mescal brandy, agave wine, mescal tequila, and finally tequila.

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Contrary to popular belief, the liquor at the heart of your favorite frozen margarita recipe does not come from a cactus. It is made from distilled sap taken from hearts of the agave plant, which is actually related to the lily and amaryllis.

There are 136 species of agave in México, but only the blue agave, agave tequilana Weber azul, is allowed for use in tequila production. For many centuries, and continuing today, most of the entire world's supply of tequila comes from a 100 mile radius of a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco called…Tequila!

How Tequila is Made

Today, 300 million blue agave plants are planted, tended to, and harvested by hand. When the 8-10-year-old plants have reached their peak ripeness, the leaves are stripped off and only the heart or "piña" is used to make tequila. They are cut up, roasted (to turn the starches in the cores into sugar), and then shredded and pressed for juice.

The juice is placed into fermentation tanks, where yeast is added. The juice will be fermented for 30 to 48 hours, and then distilled two or even three times in either customary copper stills or the more modern stainless steel stills. The result is a product that captures the aroma of the agave and, at the same time, tastes as pure as possible. Each piña makes approximately 8 bottles of tequila, and the alcohol content may be between 70 and 110 proof.

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