Tequila's history dates back to a fermented agave drink enjoyed by the Aztec civilisation in Mexico. The Spaniards conquered the area in 1521, bringing their knowledge of distillation, and an agave spirit was almost certainly being produced as early as the 16th century. Almost unknown outside Mexico until the 1930s, tequila rose to fame with the Margarita during the 1950s and 1960s, peaked during the Tex Mex era of the 1980s, and fell from favour during the 1990s.
Today, thanks to crafted, 100% agave tequilas, such as Don Julio, the return of fresh ingredients, and the rise of specialist tequila bars and aged sipping tequilas, tequila is undergoing a renaissance. Tequila may only be made in specific regions of Mexico, most famously around the city of Tequila, and must contain at least 51% agave, a bluish-green plant. Tequila is made by harvesting agave from long rows in carefully tended fields. It grows in these, vineyard-style. Workers then cut out the core, which resembles a pineapple, roast it, ferment what’s left and then distill the liquid. Reposado (rested) tequilas are oak aged for at least two months; añejo (aged) tequilas are oak aged for at least one year; extra-añejo (extra-aged) tequilas spend three years or more in the cask.
The Margarita has traditionally been the ultimate way to enjoy the green, grassy notes of tequila since the 1930s. The Paloma is a classic long, refreshing serve, while the Tequila Sunrise is a taste of the 1970s. Tequila, which is often served in Mexico with a spicy side drink, also works extremely well in a Bloody Mary-style Bloody Maria.