It’s National Tequila Day in the U.S., and Americans love tequila–we drink 80 percent of the world’s tequila production–even though our current administration seems to hate the place it comes from and the people who often make and serve it. While today it is often associated with American spring breakers doing tequila shots in Tijuana or retirees day-drinking margaritas, tequila goes back a long way.
Tequila is made from agave, a type of succulent plant. Aztecs in what is now Mexico started fermenting agave around 1000 B.C., making a beverage called pulque, a forerunner to the tequila we know and love today. When the Spanish arrived, they got in on the game, distilling agave into something closer to modern tequila. Around 1936, the quintessential tequila drink for most Americans, the margarita was invented, possibly by an Irish bar owner living in Mexico. In 1974, Mexico claimed the term “tequila” as its intellectual property, much as the term “champagne” has been claimed by France. This means legally true tequila can only be made in certain parts of Mexico, according to certain standards. However, producers of this uniquely Mexican spirit are increasingly being bought up by foreign, often white, owners getting in on the tequila bonanza. Today, none of the biggest tequila producers in Mexico is owned by Mexicans.
It’s an interesting commentary on the effects of globalization: even a product essentially copyrighted by a country ends up profiting the wealthy elite of other, often whiter countries. Meanwhile, Mexico and Mexicans are cast as subhuman criminals by the people who both profit from their products and consume them.
So this National Tequila Day, drink to remember! Drink to forget! Drink to find some measure of pleasure in this chaotic world of ours! And try one of these simple recipes. (Pro tip: blanco tequila, which has no added sugar, is supposed to be the best kind to use to avoid hangovers.)
Tequila, especially good tequila, has a distinctive taste: a hint of saltiness, a touch of smoke. Both of those characteristics pair beautifully with citrus, which is why citrusy drinks dominate this list.
Palomas are light and refreshing and go perfectly with a plate of tacos on a hot summer day. To make your own, you’ll need:
- 2 oz tequila blanco (that’s about a shot and half)
- Lime juice
- 3 oz grapefruit juice
- 3 oz club soda
Stir together the tequila, a generous squeeze of lime juice, a pinch of salt, and the grapefruit juice. Then add the ice and pour over the club soda. If you want to cut down on the ingredients, try just getting a grapefruit soda. Enjoy on a sunlit patio.
2. Tequila Sunrise
The Tequila Sunrise is another classic tequila and citrus combination.
- 2 oz tequila
- 3 oz orange juice
- ½ oz grenadine
Add the tequila and orange juice to a cold glass and stir, then float the grenadine on top. If you want to really jazz things up, get wild and use blood orange juice.
3. Tequila Sangria
This one is perfect for hosting your very own Tequila Day celebration. Mix up a pitcher and gather your friends, and the following ingredients
- 1 bottle of dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups of tequila
- 1 Triple Sec
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1 orange, sliced
- 2 limes, sliced
Combine all the liquid ingredients in a pitcher and stir, then add your sliced fruit. Let it chill in the fridge for at least two hours. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will meld together. This is a good time to experiment too–add more slices of your favorite fruits, throw in some fresh berries or herbs. They’ll add extra brightness to your drink, and leave you with a tasty, boozy snack afterward.
When you’re ready to serve, rub a wedge of lime around the rim of your glasses. Pour some salt on a plate or cutting board and dip the edges of the glasses in it. Add ice, then pour and enjoy.
Sometimes “holidays” like this one can feel silly, especially when the world is in such turmoil. But they can also be fun, and that can be important to hold onto especially when the world seems like it’s going to hell in a handbasket. So take a little time to catch up with your friends, try out a new drink recipe, and learn to love tequila in a new way.