The Legend of Tequila

According to an old tale, during Mexico's pre-hispanic times, Tequila was discovered when a bolt of lightning struck an Agave field. The bolt tore into the heart of one of the plants and the heat of the lightning bolt was so hot that it burned the heart of the plant for several seconds, causing the plant to become not only cooked, but also naturally fermented. The shocked natives noticed an aromatic nectar coming out of the plant. With a certain amount of fear, but also with reverence, they drank the nectar which they deemed to be a miraculous gift from their gods.

Tequila's History

The food and drink of different regions of any country are a universe of values, custom and ideas; we can say one whole culture. Within rituals of the food of Mexico, the ritual of tequila occupies a special place that has grown in importance.

You may ask why tequila is held in such high regard in Mexico and at the Mexican Café. Well, just as food conveys the ideas and values of a country and culture, so does its favoured drinks. As Scotch is to Scotland and Champagne to France, Tequila is to Mexico. Something of a national symbol.

Mezcal and Tequila are the names given to a distilled spirit made from the juice of the cactus like (but technically not cactus) plant called Agave, Maguey and/or Mezcal. All three names are used and all three are correct. There are more than 260 varieties of this plant growing in different regions of Mexico.

Tequila was originally derived from the ancient Indian drink called pulque; a mildly alcoholic beverage made of the fermented sap of the maguey, or century plant. It was only drunk by the Indians during their priest's ritual celebration of brave deeds. Intoxication itself was not condoned at all and was punishable by either exile or death!

The Spanish, however, had very different ideas about how to use the maguey… they used a distilling process they learned from the Moors to roast, crush and ferment the huge (36 - 90 kilos) pineapple shaped hearts of a smaller species of maguey called agave to produce mezcal and tequila. This agave is a kind of lily; contrary to the popular opinion that tequila comes from a cactus!

The distilling of the spirit has long been centred in the central region of Jalisco, where the industry employs some 300.000 workers in the town of Tequila, which lent its name to the drink much as the region of Champagne did to the famous beverage of France. The town government also outlined strict rules for the production; quality and content of tequila and without following this code a spirit can not be called Tequila.

The Mexican Café offers a range of more than 80 different tequilas. Tequila is traditionally sipped as an appetiser. Two of the most popular and well-known ways of drinking tequila are as shots and margaritas. The one and only way to shoot tequila is the time honoured " lick, sip, suck" method. Salt is placed on the side of the hand and licked, the tequila is tipped back and finally a slice of lemon or lime is sucked to cleanse the palate.

The margarita is a delicious and famous cocktail made with lemon juice and an orange liqueur, which is added as a sweetener as well as for flavour. This cocktail can be blended with ice or shaken and is generally served in a salt-rimmed glass. The creative fruity margaritas also available at the Mex are a great refreshing summer drink and will definitely change the way you drink and think of tequila.