What do lightning, the Aztecs and champagne have to do with the delicious spirit tequila?
According to an old tale, tequila was discovered when a bolt of lightning struck an agave field and burned the heart of an agave plant causing it to become cooked and naturally fermented. It's said that an Aztec Indian discovered the milky substance oozing from the plant, and found the taste pleasing and euphoric. Naturally, word quickly spread of his discovery. This substance, known as “pulque”, was consumed by Aztec Indians for hundreds of years until the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors, when it became North America’s first distilled drink.
Now the production of tequila is protected by Mexican law, and has an “appellation of origin” just like champagne, meaning that in order to be called tequila, the spirit can only be made from agave grown in the state of Jalisco and the selected areas of Tamaulipas, Nayarit, Michoacán and Guanajuato. Like grapes, agaves are sensitive to region and this creates unique flavour and aroma differences in the tequila.
There are two types of tequila: “mixto” is made from 51% tequila and 49% other stuff such as colouring and flavouring, so can have a rough taste. Instead look for “100% agave” tequila – this won’t be hard as by law if it’s made from 100% agave it must say so on the front bottle label so that it’s easy to spot.
Both Herradura and el Jimador tequilas using 100% blue agave, and are produced at the Casa Herradura Distillery in Jalisco which opened in 1870 (pictured above). The distillery is said to have taken its name from the discovery of a herradura (“horseshoe” in Spanish) after a member of the family found one on the hacienda property, and adopted it as a symbol of luck. A “jimador” by the way, is the name for the workers that harvest agave, a skilled profession that’s passed from one generation to the next.
Over the past 125 years, both Herradura and el Jimador tequilas have remained Mexican-produced with 100% blue agave despite industry moves towards cost-cutting, and are therefore delicious, authentic tequilas for sipping and using in cocktails. Great to enjoy with tacos, burritos, fiestas and good friends, if you’re looking for some more tequila tasting tips, read our guide to throwing a Tequila Tasting Night here. And while you’re at it, fend off winter chills with The Herradura Winter Warmer cocktail made with coffee and whipped cream below…