With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, let’s talk get tequila talkin’!
Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5 to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862. More popularly celebrated in the United States than in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. Today, Cinco de Mayo generates beer sales on par with the Super Bowl.
In Mexico, the commemoration of the battle is mostly ceremonial, with events such as military parades or battle reenactments. The city of Puebla marks the event with an arts festival, a festival of local cuisine, and re-enactments of the battle.
Tequila is the most popular spirit from Mexico, so let’s dive into how it’s made:
Real tequila is made from blue agave, a succulent plant found in Mexican regions. Its production is divided into seven steps: harvesting, cooking, extraction, fermentation, distillation, aging and bottling. Each step is regulated by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila to ensure that general guidelines are followed to guarantee maximum quality.
- Harvesting: The planting, tending and harvesting of the agave plant remains a manual effort that relies on centuries-old techniques passed down from generation to generation.The harvester, or “Jimador” removes the agave leaves with a sharp curved tool called a Coa. The leaves that protect the heart, or piña, of the agave until the whole heart is extracted from the ground. Only the piña of the agave plant is used to make tequila.
- Cooking: During this step, there is steam injection within traditional brick ovens or stainless steel autoclaves. These are used to activate a chemical process within the piña that converts complex carbs into simple fermentable sugars. Cooking also softens the piña, making the process of sugar extraction easier.
- Extraction: Once cooked, the agave heads are transported to a milling area for sugar extraction. The cooked piñas are crushed in order to release the juice, or “aguamiel,” that will be fermented. Once the piñas are crushed, they are washed with water and strained to remove the juices.
- Fermentation: The sugars are transformed into alcohol within large wooden vats or stainless steel tanks. Yeast may be added to accelerate and control the fermentation. Fermentation typically takes seven to twelve days, depending on the method used.
- Distillation: 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, or “deztrozamiento” takes a few hours and creates 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.
- Aging: Almost all containers used in tequila aging are French or American white oak barrels that have previously been used to age bourbon. Reposados are aged between two and twelve months, Añejos are aged between one and three years and Extra Añejos are aged for over three years. The longer the tequila ages, the more color and tannins the final product will have.
- Bottling: Like champagne, tequila is assigned an Appellation of Origin status, which limits production to five Mexican states: Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. All 100% agave tequilas must be bottled in the designated Mexican regions and must bear on their labels “Hecho en Mexico / Made in Mexico.” Non-100% agave tequila, or “mixtos,” can be sold and bottled anywhere throughout the world.
Millennials are on a tequila kick. Here’s why:
71% of the Tequila market are millennials… why? Easy.
Tequila is healthier– Millennials are health focused. Tequila a low-calorie and low-sugar spirit.
Tequila is cleaner– Millennials with dietary restrictions love Tequila. For those who are avoiding grains, tequila ranks among the safest spirits to drink because distilled from agave, and there’s not a trace of wheat or barley.
Tequila is culturally driven– Millennials have an interest in these items that were homegrown, made with a lot of talented and passionate distillers.
If you are choosing to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year, we hope you do so safely & respectfully to Mexican culture and with some yummy tequila cocktails! Here are a few to try:
- Classic Margarita: Tequila, Cointreau, lime juice (add some jalapeño and make it a Spicy Marg!)
- Paloma: Tequila, grapefruit, lime, simple syrup, soda water
- Tequila Sour: Tequila, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup, bitters, egg white
- Mexican Mule: Tequila, lime juice, ginger beer
- Tequila Sunrise: Tequila, orange juice, grenadine