Posted July 15, 2002 by Kay Walten in Mexican Culture
Tequila has an undeservedly bad reputation that comes from a lot of young people having really bad first experiences with cheap (mixto) tequila and the subsequent hangover that everyone wished they would rather be dead than suffer further. Remember kneeling in the bathroom making homage to the ceramic god? Or lying on the lawn desperately holding onto the grass to avoid falling upwards into space? Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. And the hat, the sandals, the shades.
Okay, before I go any further, let me stick a caveat in here. I’m not a purveyor of hard liquor. I don’t like most of it, I detest most mixed drinks (especially those syrupy concoctions made with soft drinks… ugh!) and as a rule we don’t even have hard liquor in the house, unless a guest brings it for his or her own use. In case anyone gets the wrong idea, I don’t espouse serious drinking or quaffing bottles of tequila. Use your common sense and show restraint. ‘Nuff said.
Tequila is not made from the typical grains or fruits most alcoholic beverages are made from. It is distilled from the roasted centre (piña) of the blue agave (maguey) plant – the agave tequilana weber azul – one of 136 species of agave that grow in Mexico (with 26 sub-species, 29 varieties and 7 types). It has a lifespan of 8-14 years, depending on soil, climate and cultivation methods. The blue agave was classified by German botanist F. Weber in 1905. It’s commonly – and mistakenly – called a cactus, but it is really a succulent that belongs to the lily (amaryllis) family. It is sometimes known as cabuya, maguey mezcal, mexic, pita and teometl. The agave used in mezcal, although similar, is harvested younger than the tequila agave.
As North America’s first distilled drink, and its first commercially-produced alcohol, tequila’s history is long and rich. Its roots reach back into pre-Hispanic times when the natives fermented sap from the local maguey plants into a drink called pulque. The history of tequila’s development from the traditional beverage to the modern spirit parallel’s the often turbulent, chaotic growth of Mexico herself – and is equally obscure to outsiders.
Mezcal wine, tequila’s grandparent was first produced only a few decades after the Conquest that brought the Spaniards to the New World in 1521. It was variously called mezcal brandy, agave wine, mezcal tequila and finally simply tequila – appropriately named after Tequila, a small town in a valley in Jalisco state, Mexico.
The word tequila itself is a mystery. It is said to be an ancient Nahuatl term. The Nahuatl were the original people who lived in the area. The word means means (depending on the authority) “the place of harvesting plants,” “the place of wild herbs,” “place where they cut,” “the place of work” or even “the place of tricks.” According to Jose Maria Muria, tequila comes form the Nahuatl words tequitl (work, duty, job or task) and tlan (place). Other sources say it means “the rock that cuts.” Tequila Cascahuin says the word is a corruption of “tetilla” because the volcano looked like a small woman’s breast. Other sources say it is a corruption of the name of the natives – Ticuilas or Tiquilos. All of them are suitable. It is the name of the spirit, the name of the town and the name of the valley.
The “father of tequila” Don Pedro Sanches de Tagle, Marquis of Altamira, established the very first tequila factory in his Hacienda Cuisillos, in 1600, cultivating the local agave for distillation (some sources indicate he was much later, in 1695 or even 1753 and as late as 1755, but this is incorrect – he arrived in Jalisco in 1600, and the early taxation of mezcal wines prove production began very early). In 1608, the governor of New Galicia imposed the first taxes on mezcal wine. By 1621, “wines of mezcal” were being regularly supplied to nearby Guadalajara and the first references to an “abundant” mezcal harvest appeared in local records.
Blanco or plata (white or silver) is Tipo (type) 1: the most common type. It’s considered ‘unaged’ and is under 60 days old, and may be bottled fresh from distillation. Sometimes this is a harsh, young (joven) drink, but it can also be tastier and more robust than highly refined varieties, if it’s marked “100 per cent agave” (see below). Some distillers may ‘rest’ blanco tequilas in oak barrels for more smoothness – the maximum allowable period is 30 days.
Joven abocado (young and smoothed, also called gold – oro) is Tipo 2: basically the same as blanco, but with colouring and flavouring ingredients added to make it look aged. These are also called suave or oro (gold) because of its colouring (usually through added caramel and sometimes oak essence, up to 1% total weight). In the industry they’re known as mixto, or mixed blends. Generally they’re not as good as 100% agave, but they are also very popular for export sales. Note that Herradura calls its 100% agave reposado tequila “gold,” but it is not to be confused with a gold mixto.
Reposado (means rested) is Tipo 3: This is aged from two months to up to a year in oak casks or barrels. This is where the better tequilas start and the tastes become richer and more complex. The longer the aging, the darker the colour and the more the wood affects the flavour. Reposado accounts for more than 60% of all tequila sales in Mexico. It was the first type of aged tequila.
Añejo (aged, or vintage) is Tipo 4: aged in government-sealed barrels of no more than 350 liters, for a minimum of a year. They may be aged longer – as long as eight to ten years, although many authorities say tequila is at its best at four or five years. It is usually removed from the barrels and racked into stainless steel tanks after four years because evaporation in the barrels reaches 50% or more). Many of the añejos become quite dark and the influence of the wood is more pronounced than in the reposado variety. After three or more years, these añejos may be called “muy añejo” or “tres añejos” by the manufacturers – a term not recognized officially.
Reserva de casa although not an officially recognized “tipo,” usually means premium, and may be a limited production variety. Most are also añejo. Other unofficial categories include gran reposado – which should mean it was aged longer than the minimum – and blanco suave. These are attempts by manufacturers to identify their product as unique within the rigid government guidelines for labelling. Both should also be identified as 100 per cent agave
Riviera Maya Activities (217)
Mexican Art (61)
Community Organizations (27)
Mexican Culture (176)
Mexico Destinations (127)
Family vacations (97)
Food & Drink (233)
Guest Bloggers (20)
Riviera Maya Photos (304)
Riviera Maya events (79)
Riviera Maya Services (62)
Sustainable Tourism (113)
Vacation tips (58)
Destination Weddings (30)
Costa Maya (14)
Loco Adventures (43)
Mayan Ruins (39)
Riviera Maya Destinations (250)
Community Announcements (20)
Mexican Recipes (33)
Riviera Maya Restaurants (73)
Mindful Traveler (49)
Yucatan Activities (46)
Riviera Maya Vacation Tips (149)
Mexico Vacation Tips (163)
Restaurant Reviews (8)
Interview with a Local (15)
"LocoGringo.com books total trip packages and I recommend LG to all my friends and even to strangers I hear talking about going to Mexico!!"
"And their amazing website is one of the main reasons we started going regularly to the Riviera Maya and especially Akumal. No other place around the Caribbean has nearly as good a web presence as LG has given this area."
--Dan, St. Louis MO,
"Thanks for everything you have done with Locogringo… the site is great and your staff has been nothing short of incredible when it comes to helping us plan our trips. Maybe we’ll run into you on one of your walks some day."
"A company made up mostly of American Expats living in the Riviera Maya with a booking list of many hundreds of properties. Big enough to know each property intimately and small enough to know each customer personally. A level of service simply impossible for the giant companies to provide.
--Jim T., Colorado
"What an amazing company Locogringo is. Every silly question I have.... they answer , If something comes up like a travel day change, adding more people, or whatever it might be... you get a response from a real person ... who seems to love what they do . That is hard to find these days and I really appreciate that."
"You always recommend amazing accommodations and we are always comfortable and feel safe. Your staff does a fantastic job at making our vacation each year a ” hassle free ” experience ! All we have to do is ” show up ” and the rest is already taken care of. We will continue in future to use LocoGringo and also continue as we have done already, to highly recommend your company to anyone we know that is planning a vacation."
--Nancy & Bill, Toronto, Canada
"People who “live the area” will want to make sure you enjoy your vacation and come back again!"
"It is like having a friend make your reservations for you .... we always feel comfortable knowing LG will be in charge of our arrangements because they know the area first hand, they live there ..... you ask a question and they answer it with good humor and great knowledge of what they speak. I will always recommend Loco Gringo in a heart beat!"
"All our Riviera Maya trips have been booked using LocoGringo. We love their service."
"I had contacted you before I left for my first trip to Mexico and all of your recommendations were spot on. I started in Playa Del Carmen and worked my way to Tulum. I had only expected to stay 2 nights there and instead wound up staying for a week-and that still was not nearly enough time. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks! I will be checking in with you guys as I am tring to plan a trip to Holbox next. That place looks amazing!"
--Louis Skip Gonzalez, Unidos Magazine
"So here is a GREAT BIG TEXAS THANK YOU TO LOCO GRINGO for all the awesome, fantastic vacations in Paradise."
"I would recommend Locogringo to everyone I know. It is such a great service that they provide from researching and booking the perfect place to stay to finding all the needs you could possibly want during your stay. Thanks Locogringo."
"We have been Booking our Riviera Maya vacations from Loco Gringo since 2005. Always Great communication, helpful tips and quick responses to our questions. They were especially helpful when Hurricane Wilma hit and put a stop to our Vacation plans. They made sure we knew about the weather situation and did all the work with re-booking our vacation in Paradise!"
"When we use LG to book a trip we get immediate help with all of our questions in a very timely way by people who know what they are talking about and are extremely helpful, patient, knowledgeable, and congenial. They really get how to do customer service.
Once we book through LG we never have to worry about any of it again. We are always amazed at how smooth and trouble free our bookings through LG have been."
--K.B., Fort Worth, TX
"I just wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU! The trip we booked through Loco Gringo was perfect! The price was exceptionally good and the service was second to none! If you’ve never booked with Loco Gringo before, we *highly* recommend them!"
""I was soooo delighted with the Loco Gringo services. Everything was trouble free and all my questions were always answered promptly. Thanks for a GREAT trouble free vacation!""
"She & her new Husband had a fantastic hassle free trip. This was their very first time to Mexico and her comment upon return was " Dad, 7 days is NOT enough time ! " Super job, LG."
--Bernie in Denver,
"We usually need reservations for 2 to 4 people but for 2 years we needed reservations for 7 to 9 people, adults and kids and they have always done a flawless job in getting the resort we wanted and at the best price too!!"
"Loco Gringos is the VERY BEST booking site I have ever worked with. They respond to emails promptly, work hard to honor special requests, answer questions etc. They ALWAYS take great care of their customers and are conscientious and professional at all times. We have booked 8 trips with this company and NEVER hesitate to use them or recommend them when traveling to the Riviera Maya."
"Now is a great time to tell you how wonderful you and your staff are at making it so easy to find and book the best vacations, THANK YOU !"
--Joyce & Hugh,
"...for your patience with me and making this process go soooo much smoother! I truly appreciate you and the staff at LocoGringo. Thanks again! I can't wait to be sitting on the beach!
Maggie in Colorado"
"Loco Gringo has an AWESOME website with great info, it is lots of fun to visit, be sure to join their forums. The forums hold more information and trip reports than you can 'shake a stick at'!"
"Go to the home page or check the forum."
"I will be bragging about your site to any and all who will listen. Our experience was phenomenal!!!"
"I have booked most of my Mayan Riviera trips through Loco Gringo and can only say I wouldn't even consider using anyone else to handle my bookings for stays in that area.
Their booking process is simple, fast and friendly, and they will answer your questions and queries until you are completely satisfied that every single detail has been taken care of.
Who else would know the area better than folks who live and work right there? Try to get that level of expertise and knowledge with a booking agent who lives and works several hundred, or even thousands of miles away.
Not only that, but they are genuinely nice people as well, who really care for their customers and the community and area that they call home
Keep up the great work Loco Gringo!!"
"Both in 2011 and this year we have booked our room through Locogringo.com. We searched and found a great rate at the resort we wanted, and then Locogringo met that price, and with their booking came their amazing customer service and the peace of mind that if we need anything while we are there we simply need to call. I always get a fast turnaround on any email I send them, and they work so hard to find us the best rates and the rooms we want. We hope to have a long relationship with them, and recommend their site to everyone we know."
--Tim A and Teri A, Salem, UT
"and for the past five years we have used Loco Gringo for every reservation, I'm sorry that we did not find them sooner.
I have been searching Loco Gringo for all these years and one thing I have not yet found ........... someone who is not fabulous to work with. Great people, great owners and a great way to run a business."
--K & DB, Outer Banks, NC,
"It's a great comfort to visit the Riviera Maya and know that Loco Gringo is there to help, if needed. "
--Bryan in IN,
"Not sure if we will be returning next summer, but will definitely let you know if we are, as Loco Gringo is the ONLY way to go for us!"
--Lesley P., Texas
"We spent a lot of our time sitting on the second floor porch with our feet propped on the railing just staring at the water. Coming home was hard this year..Staying for two weeks still wasn't long enough."
"quick and informative replies from Bart ( thanks Bart) , easy booking procedure plus online management of your booking . I am highly impressed."
--Theressa - Middlesex U.K.,
* Denotes A Required Field
How much are you thinking about spending?