Tequila was manufactured in the 16th century near the city of Tequila, which was not formally founded until 1666. A fermented brew from the agave plant identified as pulque was eaten in pre-Columbian central Mexico before European contact. After the Spanish colonizers ran out of their own brandy, they started to distill agave to create one of North America’s first native distilled spirits.
80 years later, in 1600, Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira, started mass-producing tequila at the first plant in the territory of contemporary-day Jalisco. By 1608, the colonialist governor of Nueva Galicia had begun to tax his goods. Spain’s King Carlos IV awarded the Cuervo family the first license to commercially make tequila.
Don Cenobio Sauza, the founding father of Sauza Tequila and Municipal President of the Village of Tequila from 1884–1885, was the first to be exported tequila to the United States and change the name from “Tequila Extract” to just “Tequila” for the American marketplaces. Don Cenobio’s grandson Don Francisco Javier earned worldwide notice for insisting that “there cannot be tequila where there are no agaves!” His efforts led to the practice that real tequila can come only from the State of Jalisco.
In a step to take ownership of the term “tequila,” the Mexican government declared its intellectual property in 1974.