History of the Tequila Sunrise

The History of the Tequila Sunrise

Tequila and its history goes way back!

Making a great cocktail is an art form.

A good bartender knows the history of a great tequila sunrise and does his best to provide the perfect drinking experience. Creating the perfect blend of ingredients in a colorful and appetizing way is our tradition. With that in mind, we’d like to give ya’ll a bit of history on the making of a great Margarita. Of course, it all starts with the Agave:

In the fields of Mexico grows an amazing plant. A plant known far and wide for its ‘medicinal’ properties. No, it isn’t any form of ‘illegal’ plant that grows on this Earth. This particular plant has a special history. One that comes from the great Aztec gods of old.

There is a saying in this world, “The gods must be crazy!”.

Well, I tend to agree. The sunrise history of tequila has many variations. Aztec gods, Mayan gods, Greek titans, Roman colossi, etc…whatever! They argue about everything just like people do. The problem is when the gods argue regular people always seem to get the shaft. They cause all kinds of trouble with their shenanigans. The effects from their actions still live on today.

Not everything the gods do is negative.

Sometimes the effects produced are surprisingly pleasant. Take for example the story of how Tequila became popular in the world. It’s a long story and has an ancient beginning. Of course, anything pleasant like Tequila takes a lot of work and great hardship to produce. Especially when it comes to its origins.

Pulque is the great ancestor of Tequila. Pulque isn’t distilled, it’s fermented. Fermented from its main ingredient: The AGAVE plant! Yes, the AGAVE plant. There is an old legend about this incredible staple in Mexican life. One that comes from the Aztecs. I heard it told by old Nacho Suave himself. It’s a good place to begin the story of how Tequila came to be.

History of Sunrise Tequila – The Ancient Margarita

To the Aztecs Agave provided ‘the drink of the gods’ known as pulque. It’s a white frothy drink that goes way, way back. It’s the direct ancestor of what we know as Tequila today. It comes from the maguey, or agave plant and takes a dozen years or so to mature and give out the sap which is needed to produce this intoxicating drink. The ancient Aztecs and others who lived in the region used it for medicinal purposes and especially in their rituals. Some of these rituals are known to have been very bloody indeed.

This brings us to how the Agave plant came to be.

According to the Aztecs there once was a goddess, Tzintzimitl, who lived in the sky. A real bitch by today’s standards. She was evil in nature and covered the Earth in darkness and forced all the natives to sacrifice to her despairing countenance. She was greedy for light and devoured all she could get.

Now Quetzalcoatl wasn’t happy with Tzintzimitl.

He thought the natives should be treated better and decided to give Tzintzimitl her comeuppance. So one day he went out to look for her. Fortunately he didn’t find her but came across her grand-daughter, Mayahuel. She’s the goddess of fertility and naturally he fell in love with her right on the spot. So instead they ran off together and tried to start a new life.

But Tzintzimitl would have none of that. Not at all. When she found out she went on a rampage looking for them and never let up on the search. So, in order to hide, both Quetzalcoatl and Mayahuel turned themselves into trees so they could be next to each other and still touch one another.

After a long search involving mass destruction Tzintzimitl finally found them. She killed Mayahuel and Quetzalcoatl was heart broken. He then sought his revenge upon the evil goddess and battled her in the sky killing her. His revenge didn’t assuage his sorrow as he would go to Mayahuel’s grave and cry every night.

Seeing this the other gods decided to help the heart-broken Quetzalcoatl. They made a special plant grow at Mayahuel’s burial site. A plant with special hallucinogenic properties that would give comfort to Quetzalcoatls broken heart. He made an elixir from this plant and named it pulque and shared it with the natives. The natives gave thanks to Quetzalcoatl for this great gift and today the Agave plant lives on in the great spirit of Tequila.

The origin of Tequila is probably a lot simpler than the gods and all their drama.

Could it have been lightning striking an Agave plant transforming it with super magical properties? Maybe not but I still got a few questions. The history of the tequila sunrise must know. Did lightning strike just one plant or a whole field of them? Did this super plant spread its special properties to all the others growing around it? Probably not. Maybe it just spread it seeds in the wind. Who knows? Legends, myths, fantasies; these all offer mystique to all things Tequila. Especially when imbibed.


It seems the Spanish soldiers under Cortez ran out of brandy real quick after he burned all their ships. Nothing left but what the locals had and that was Pulque. So I suppose a wily Spanish Sargent started distilling the fermented agave from the pulque the locals were producing. Making the first tequila. After a while a Franciscan monk took advantage of this new spirit and its properties and started a ‘mission’ of sorts in what is known today as the Tequila region in Mexico.


History of Tequila
The History of Fermenting Tequila

Tequila History Fermentation to Distillation

The Tequila Sunrise began its rise to prominence way back when King Philip of Spain banned planting new vineyards in Mexico. Just like today wine and spirits were heavily taxed into submission to bring more revenues to the crown. Mexico was rich in development in many areas and the King wanted to make sure all wine exports came from Spain.

Noticing the qualities of the blue agave plant a man named Pedro Sanchez de Tagle decided to look into this native plant further. He’s the one who first started making Tequila in larger quantities for general consumption by starting a small distillery at his estate in Hacienda Cuisillos. Although, I bet he had a few grape vineyards on the sly the King didn’t know about. Always having to get your wine from import must have been a real pain in the ass. 😀

All credit and history of tequila goes to the Spanish for distilling the fermented agave.

Some old Aztec legends state otherwise. The natives knew full well how to distill alcohol and they used the more potent distilled form of pulque for their secret political and spiritual ceremonies. Some of them are known to have been quite bloody indeed. No need to go into details on those things but suffice to say Tequila and its derivatives have been around for quite some time.

The indigenous natives knew their stuff when it came to the blue agave plant.

They knew the medicinal properties and also used it for many medicinal purposes. Gonorrhea and syphilis were reputed to have been treated with elements of the maguey. Also, many intestinal remedies are suggested as well.

Agave, or century plant, isn’t the only plant the Native Americans used to make potent drinks.

Honey, palm saps, wild plums, cactus, aloe, and pineapples are other sources of ancient alcohol production in Mesoamerica. There are some theories that suggest strong alcoholic drinks migrated north from the Mayan civilization. They were drinking something called ‘Balche’, a sweetened drink made with balche bark. The natives weren’t known for being drunkards and lushes.

As alcoholic beverages made it further north it was used primary in strict religious ceremonies and other medicinal purposes. Besides, the natives knew all the properties of every plant and rock around their environment. I’m sure they were using other substances along with the magical Agave plant. It really wasn’t until Spanish, French, & English traders began using strong spirits in their trading mechanics that the natives began drinking alcohol in larger and larger quantities.

Tequila has a famous and storied past.

Both good and bad. It gives rise to many detours in history. The famous Cuervo family didn’t get their start until about 150 years later. They are the ones credited for Tequilas commercial success. Later on the Sauza family began its own rise to Tequila glory in the middle of the 19th century. As we go further along in this blog we’ll be looking at their successes and explore the history of the Tequila Sunrise and many other alcoholic variations and other historical features further…

All the factual history in the books is true but there is always more to tell in every tale.
Different angles, different shapes, and different sizes.

Stay tuned…

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