Tequila: Home of Tequila (Vámonos Vol. 2)

On the high dry Jalisco lands two hours outside of Guadalajara, there is a little town called Tequila.  Not the drink, but the drink’s hometown.  This tiny village is about a third the population of Evanston, on rolling hills.  It’s a half mile above sea level and only a short distance from the Pacific.  It has a beautiful 18th century church, and, well…  a lot of Tequila.

The liquor is there right on the city’s coat of arms. Pictured are the church, the distilleries and fields of agave.  None of that is false advertising.  There are any number of distilleries in town and each one has its own tour.   The tours vary in quality, but can be great fun.  The church is the central structure in the town’s main square.  And the fields of agave are striking.

Agave is tequila’s grape.  It looks nothing like grapes but agave is the source of the drink.  These spiny blue green plants look more like cactuses.  They grow in rows that stretch out across the landscape.  The individual plants can be as long as 8 feet across, with artichoke-like hands reaching out in all directions.  The starchy center of this plant, the “pina” is the source of the starch that becomes the sweet stuff which fuels yeast that makes two things: carbon dioxide (released in fermentation), and ethanol or alcohol.

The agave plant distilled into liquor can produce many types of drinks called mescals, but only the blue agave of Jalisco and some neighboring states can be cultivated into tequila.  The plant is distinctive in its color and for the quality of sugars that are cultivated from its starches.   France has Champagne and Burgundy — Mexico has Tequila.  Just as Sparkling wines not made in Champagne cannot bear its name, so too is Tequila a product that can only be made in a specific region.  Anything distilled outside of the states without the dispensation of the Mexican government cannot legally be called tequila.

Tequila is now widely known and available through out the world.  One doesn’t need to stand on the ground where it was first cultivated to enjoy it.  But if you’re in Jalisco and like the drink you have no excuse not to enjoy the town itself.


Trip Tips

When should I go to Tequila?

Whenever you travel to Guadalajara a side trip to Tequila could be a good idea.  The climate is dry enough that the weather can be pleasant all year round, but snow birds might like to escape Chicago in the winter.

How long should I stay?

On a day trip from Guadalajara: long enough to stroll through the streets visit a distillery, Jose Cuervo is one of the biggest and though it is generally associated with its least distinguished variety, there are many fine Cuervo Tequilas beyond the kind immortalized in country western songs.  Overall, it’s not a bad option.

How much should I drink?

Enough to try at least a sip of the anejo, reposado and the silver, but not enough to hate yourself the next day.  The altitude is not extremely, but it is high for Chicagoans and as I’ve said its very dry.

I don’t like to drink Tequila should I still go?

Yes, but only if you’re willing to be convinced that you actually do like to drink tequila.