In 1521, the Aztecs had been drinking the fermented juice of the agave for centuries.
• A beer-like drink octli poliqhui was used in rituals and ceremonies.
• The Spanish bastardized the name of the drink into pulque.
• The blue agave grows best in state of Jalisco, and it was there that the Spanish first produced tequila in 16th Century, thereby creating the first indigenous distilled spirit.
• Around 1600, Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle mass produced tequila near what is now Jalisco.
• Later, King Carlos IV granted the Cuervo family the first license to make tequila commercially.
• The plants grow in neat rows for six to ten years and are meticulously tended until they are ripe and ready to harvest.
• The harvester, or “Jimador” removes the agave leaves with a sharp curved tool called a Coa.
• He trims the 200 plus leaves that protect the heart or piña of the agave until the whole heart is extracted from the ground.
• Only the heart, or “piña,” of the agave plant is used to make tequila.
• Mature piñas weigh in between a hefty eighty and three hundred pounds; however, the size of the agave heart is not nearly as important as its sugar content.
• Approximately, 15 pounds of agave piñas are required to produce one liter of delicious tequila.
• During this step, steam injection within traditional brick ovens or stainless steel autoclaves is used to activate a chemical process within the piña that converts complex carbohydrates into simple fermentable sugars.
• Cooking also softens the piña, making the process of sugar extraction easier.
• The agave heads are transported to a milling area for sugar extraction.
• The cooked piñas are crushed in order to release the juice that will be fermented.
• The traditional method is to crush the piñas with a “tahona,” a giant grinding wheel operated by mules, oxen or tractors within a circular pit.
• Once the piñas are minced they are washed with water and strained to remove the juices.
• The sugars are transformed into alcohol within large wooden vats or stainless steel tanks.
• Yeast may be added to accelerate and control the fermentation.
• Traditionally, the yeast that grows naturally on the agave leaves is used.
• Fermentation typically takes seven to twelve days, depending on the method used.
• Ferments are separated by heat and steam pressure within stainless steel pot stills or distillation towers.
• While some tequilas are distilled three times, the majority are only distilled twice.
• The first distillation, also known as “deztrozamiento” or “smashing,” takes a couple hours and yields a liquid with an alcohol level of about 20% known as “ordinario.”
• The second distillation, known as “rectification,” takes three to four hours and yields a liquid with an alcohol level near 55%.
• After the second distillation the tequila is considered silver, or “blanco,” tequila.