National Tequila Day is July 24, 2019 – and there’s no better place to get into the “spirit” than at Playa del Carmen’s all inclusive Royal Hideaway Playacar. Here, you can spend some time at the property’s Tequilaria, a beautiful space dedicated to the beverage in all its forms. Can’t make it for the big day? Don’t worry. The all-inclusive, adults-only hotel celebrates tequila all year long. But before you go, here are ten things you should know about the ultimate Mexican spirit: tequila.
It’s all about agave
Tequila is made from the heart of a blue agave plant, which just so happens to grow in abundance around the city of Tequila in central western Mexico. More than 300 million blue agave plants are harvested there every year. It’s a slow process: the plant can take from eight to 12 years to mature. To qualify as true tequila, a spirit must be derived from 51 percent blue agave. It’s the law! But many brands in the modern era go all the way and make their product from 100 percent blue agave. You can usually find out the percentage on a bottle’s label.
The Mezcal difference
Just like scotch and bourbon are a type of whiskey, tequila is a type of mezcal – mezcal is basically any agave-based liquor. The word Mezcal comes from the Aztec word Mexcalli. The word is a blend of Metl (agave) and Ixcalli (cooked). That’s right – mezcal means “cooked agave.”
The rest is history
Though the Aztecs had been fermenting agave for centuries – but it seems that Spaniards developed what we think of as tequila in the early 1600s. The Marquis of Altamira built the first large-scale distillery in what is now Tequila, Jalisco. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. Salud!
Sip & savor
You may be used to drinking a shot of tequila with salt and lime. But in Mexico, they like to keep things simple. The beverage is usually served neat and sipped like bourbon – not knocked back – in order to savor the rich flavors and aroma. If you want to enjoy it like a local, try it this way!
The perfect glass
A perfect beverage deserves a perfect glass. In Mexico, the proper way to enjoy your drink is to use a tall, narrow shot glass called a caballito, which translates to “little horse.” Giddyup!
Hecho en México
In order to truly be tequila, it must be produced in Mexico – just like real champagne has to come from France. Most tequila is produced in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, though some varieties come from Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.
Where’s the worm?
Contrary to popular legend, the worm at the bottom of the bottle is not a necessary part of the tequila experience. That was introduced as a marketing ploy – mainly for tequila’s close cousin mezcal. So don’t be surprised when your bottle of tequila doesn’t come with a wriggly guy at the bottom.
Three’s the magic number
There are three main categories of tequila, based on age and distillation.
- Blanco (AKA silver) is un-aged, and is the most beloved variety in Mexico, thanks to the strong notes of agave that come through.
- Reposado – which translates to “rest” – ages in a cask for between two and 11 months, during which time the tequila acquires a sweet flavor, with hints of vanilla and caramel.
- Anejo means “aged” or “vintage,” and can be casked for 1-3 years at a time. Expect a woody flavor, with smooth and subtle characteristics.
Did you know that tequila is a virtually hangover-free spirit? It’s true – if you’re drinking 100 percent pure blue agave, you’ll wake up the next morning feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. No guarantees if you’re using mixers, though … and we always encourage you to drink responsibly. Know your limits!
Since its invention, mixologists (both professional and amateur) have gotten creative with the delicious, tequila-based Margarita cocktail. These days, you can enjoy such outlandish flavors as pomegranate ginger-pineapple, cucumber mint, green tea, and even chocolate. But who invented the Margarita, the delicious beverage? No one knows! But many believe it was named in honor of Ziegfeld showgirl Marjorie King, who wanted a tasty beverage, but was allergic to pretty much all liquor – except tequila. We do know who invented the frozen Margarita. It was Dallas’ Mariano Martinez, who in 1971 had the bright idea to use his restaurant’s soft-serve machine to create the very first version of this creamy cocktail.
Royal Hideaway Playacar’s Tequilaria offers both classic and more esoteric selections, often produced by small, micro producers. For those who want to dive deeper, the resort hosts a daily Master Class on the history of the spirit. Start planning your Playa del Carmen vacation now.