A Sip of History
The name tequila comes from the Nahuatl word Tecuilan or Tequillan, which translates into‘a place of work’or‘a place of cutting.’ The township of Santiago de Tequila was founded in 1530, by the Franciscan Fray Juan Calero and the Spanish Conquistador Cristóbal de Oñate, along with groups of natives.
King Ferdinand VI of Spain gave Jose Antonio Cuervo the first license to make tequila, in 1758. By the early 1800s, Spain’s kings continued to authorize the production of tequila as long as producers paid their taxes. When Mexico gained its independence in 1821, tequila became the official national drink, and in 1824, the town was officially classed as a villa. It was popular in the United States during Prohibition and was featured in Mexicanmade movies in the 1930s and 1940s.
In 1974, the Mexican government declared that the word tequila was its intellectual property, making it illegal for other countries to produce or sell their own tequila. It also formed the Tequila Regulatory Council to ensure the drink’s quality and promote its culture.
In 2003, Tequila was chosen as one of Mexico’s“magic villages,”based on natural beauty, cultural riches or historical relevance. And the blue agave plant fields in Tequila, Jalisco, were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006 to acknowledge their role in the rich history of Mexico.
Today, only tequila distilled from blue agave harvested in Jalisco and some parts of Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacan and Tamaulipas can use the name. The Mexican government also created Normas Oficiales Mexicanas (NOMs), which specify what tequila is and how it must be made. Each bottle of tequila must have a NOM 4-digit number on the bottle to show the name of the distillery and ensure its authenticity. Mexico is home to more than 100 distilleries that produce nearly 1000 brands of tequila.