According to the earliest historical documentation, on a hot and dusty August 7, 1873, the first registered exportation of tequila, three and a half barrels of vino mezcal, traveled by ox cart from the small town of Tequila, through El Paso del Norte, present day Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
It’s final destination was the oldest capital city of Santa Fe–39 years before New Mexico joined the Union!
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For some reason this article Tequila Timeline: From Agave to the Worm was reposted in Fast CompanyMagazine on Friday, November 20, 2009 from an earlier post on October 15, 2009. (Maybe it was because the editors forgot to add the cute tequila graphics the first time?)
Anyway, most of the timeline is historically accurate, except for this factoid:
“1873: Don Cenobio Sauza exports three barrels to El Paso, Texas, the first tequila in the United States. Today, the U.S. is the No. 1 market for tequila. Mexico is second. Third? Greece.”
The reference to Sauza exporting mezcal wine into El Paso in 1873 is incorrect. I’ll explain why momentarily, but first…
Texas’ long history of laying claim to being the home of tequila in the United States can be credited to W. Park Kerr of the El Paso Chile Company fame. Not for anything that he may have said, but for what he did.
Kerr was the first Texas entrepreneur to distill a private label tequila (Tequila Naciónal)in Mexico to his specifications, thus opening the floodgates of recent tequila brands based in Texas such as RiAzúl in Houston, El Grado in Corpus Christi, Republic Tequila in Austin, Buscadores in San Antonio, and Dos Lunas in El Paso, among others.
Sorry to break this to tejanos, but Texas was not the final destination of that first delivery.
The Rest of the Story
In his book La historia del tequila, de sus regiones y sus hombres, author Rogelio Luna Zamora recounts:
“‘…con destino a Nuevo Mexico sale una partida de 3 barriles y 6 botijas….’ El punto fronterizo por donde salió fue el Paso del Norte (hoy Ciudad Juárez) en aquel entonces, paso obligado a las mercaderías exportadas por tierra al mercado estadunidense.”
[“‘…with a destination of New Mexico there is a lot of 3 barrels and 6 jugs….’ The border town point of entry was el Paso del Norte (present day Juárez) that in those days was the required land passage for commodities exported into the American marketplace.”]
In 1873, New Mexico was a territory of the United States, but still considered part of Mexico. The final destination of Sauza’s shipment is believed to have been to the oldest capital city, Santa Fe. Being also the terminus of the legendary Santa Fe Trail, the route that opened the Southwest to trading with the Eastern United States, this conclusion only makes sense.
Thirty-nine years later, New Mexico joined the Union. Flash forward to today, and there is only one New Mexican owned brand of tequila (Silvercoin).
Perhaps now is the time for more New Mexico entrepreneurs to step up with tequila labels of their own?
Originally posted November 22, 2009 by TequilaRack.