Tequila is a Mexican spirit, made with the blue agave or “agave tequilana” from where the drink gets its name. Tequila is produced in the area surrounding the city of the same name, and in the Mexican highlands.
Tequila was first produced in the 1500s, near what is now the city of Tequila. The agave plant had been used in the preparation of alcoholic drinks for centuries; in fact the Aztecs had made a fermented drink from it called octli. In around 1600, the Marquis of Altamira, Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, first mass produced tequilas in a factory he founded in Jalisco.
The agave plant is still harvested by hand, by workers called "jimadores" They work carefully to harvest the small Agave offspring without damaging the parent plant. The exact time of the harvest is very important, because if the agave plants are gathered too early in the season, the natural sugars will have yet to develop, and if it is gathered too late, the natural sugars will have already been used up by the plant.
The agave plants are then shredded and pressed and the juices are fermented in vats. More traditional companies still crush the plants with an old-fashioned stone wheel.
The fermented juices are distilled, usually twice, though sometimes three times. Tequila is often barrel aged, and this helps develop the flavours and aromas of the drink.