Sip Your Way Through Mexico's Rich Booze History

Discover the rich history of Mexican booze, from pulque to tequila. Learn about the unique flavors and traditions of these popular spirits, and explore some of the most popular cocktails made with them. Plus, find out how Mexico is protecting its spirits with regulations.

Sip Your Way Through Mexico's Rich Booze History
Blue agave plants, the key ingredient in tequila, growing in the fields of Jalisco, Mexico.

Mexico's booze history is a rich tapestry woven over centuries. The country has a long-standing tradition of producing some of the world's most popular alcoholic beverages. From pulque, a fermented agave-based drink, to tequila, Mexico's signature spirit, Mexico's booze history is as diverse as it is fascinating.

Pulque: A Pre-Hispanic Beverage

Pulque is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in Mexico, and its history dates back to pre-Hispanic times. Made from fermented agave sap, pulque was considered a sacred drink by the Aztecs and was often used in religious ceremonies. It was also a popular drink among the common people and was consumed daily.

Pulque has a unique taste and texture, and it's a low-alcohol beverage with an ABV ranging from 4-7%. It's still produced in some regions of Mexico today, although its popularity has waned in recent times.

Mezcal: A Spirit With a Smoky Flavor

Mezcal is another alcoholic beverage that has deep roots in Mexico's booze history. Like pulque, mezcal is made from agave, but it's distilled, which makes it a stronger spirit with an ABV ranging from 40-50%.

Mezcal is often associated with a smoky flavor, which comes from the way it's produced. The agave is roasted in an underground pit before being distilled, giving mezcal its unique taste. Mezcal has become increasingly popular in recent years, both in Mexico and abroad, with many artisanal producers emerging in different parts of the country.

Tequila: Mexico's Most Famous Spirit

Tequila is perhaps the most famous Mexican spirit, and it's known around the world. Made from blue agave, tequila has a distinctive flavor and aroma that makes it stand out from other spirits. Tequila can only be produced in specific regions of Mexico, including Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

Tequila is classified into different categories based on its aging process. Blanco, or silver, tequila is unaged and has a fresh, clean taste. Reposado tequila is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two months, giving it a smooth and slightly woody flavor. Añejo tequila is aged for a minimum of one year, and it has a rich, complex flavor with notes of vanilla and caramel.

Mezcal vs. Tequila

Mezcal and tequila are often compared, but they're two very different spirits. While both are made from agave, mezcal has a smoky flavor, while tequila has a more subtle, sweet flavor. Mezcal can be made from different types of agave, while tequila must be made from blue agave.

Mezcal is also produced in different regions of Mexico than tequila, and it's often seen as a more artisanal, craft spirit. Tequila, on the other hand, has a more commercialized image, and it's often associated with partying and celebration.

A traditional pulque stand in Mexico City, where the fermented agave sap is served fresh and frothy.
A traditional pulque stand in Mexico City, where the fermented agave sap is served fresh and frothy.

Cocktails Made With Mexican Spirits

Mexican spirits are incredibly versatile, and they're often used in cocktails. Some of the most popular cocktails made with Mexican spirits include:

  • Margarita: This classic cocktail is made with tequila, lime juice, and triple sec.
  • Paloma: Made with tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime juice, the Paloma is a refreshing cocktail that's perfect for warm weather.
  • Mezcal Negroni: A twist on the classic Negroni, this cocktail uses mezcal instead of gin, giving it a smoky flavor. The smokiness of the mezcal pairs perfectly with the bitter notes of the Campari and the sweetness of the vermouth, creating a complex and delicious cocktail that's sure to please mezcal lovers.
  • Michelada: This spicy beer cocktail is made with Mexican lager, lime juice, hot sauce, and spices like salt and chili powder.
  • Oaxaca Old-Fashioned: A twist on the classic Old-Fashioned, this cocktail uses mezcal instead of whiskey, giving it a smoky flavor.

Mexican spirits are also often used in cooking and baking. Tequila, for example, is a popular ingredient in marinades, sauces, and desserts.

Regulations and Protection of Mexican Spirits

In recent years, Mexico has taken steps to protect its spirits by creating regulations around their production and distribution. In 1994, the Mexican government created the Denomination of Origin (DO) for tequila, which established specific rules for how tequila can be produced and marketed. The DO also designates specific regions where tequila can be produced, ensuring that only tequila made in these regions can be labeled as such.

Other Mexican spirits, like mezcal and sotol, have also received protection under the DO system. This helps to ensure that consumers are getting authentic products made with traditional methods and ingredients.


Mexico's booze history is a fascinating tale of ancient traditions, unique flavors, and a deep connection to the land. From pulque to tequila, Mexican spirits have captured the hearts and taste buds of people around the world. Whether sipping a smoky mezcal or enjoying a classic margarita, Mexican spirits offer a taste of Mexico's rich cultural heritage. With regulations in place to protect these spirits, we can rest assured that the future of Mexican booze will be just as vibrant as its past.