All too often, beverage companies enter the tequila industry with massive marketing budgets but little respect for the Mexican culture that is responsible for this marvelous drink. These businesses seek to exploit tequila for their own benefit, neglecting to pay homage to the area, culture, and people who produce it. They aim to dominate the market in the name of profit — not raise awareness of Mexico’s important contributions to the world.
Without Mexico, however, there would be no tequila. Authentic products that genuinely reflect the traditional culture from which they sprang have an important history and are rooted in a specific sense of place. That’s why Mexican culture should be celebrated more often in general and embraced within the tequila industry in particular.
The homeland of real tequila: Tequila, Mexico
Real tequila is made from a succulent plant called blue agave, which only grows in certain parts of Mexico. The Mexican government authorizes just five states to produce tequila: Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. In the same way that true champagne comes from the Champagne region of France, only tequila made in Tequila, Mexico, can truly be called “tequila.”
According to Mexican law, all real tequilas must be made from at least 51 percent blue agave (Agave tequilana weber) and aged in oak barrels for at least two months. While only blue agave can be used to create true tequila, other agave plants can be used for mezcal, sotol, and raicilla. In Mexico, there are over 200 different types of agave that grow wild in fields and forests throughout the country.
The blue agave plant is a perennial plant that takes up to eight years to reach maturity. Once mature, the entire plant can be used to make tequila so that nothing goes to waste.
How Eleven20 honors Mexican culture
Located in historic Jalisco, Mexico, Eleven20 is a second-generation master distillery operated by a team of 20 family members. The “20” in our company name, which is featured prominently on our label, represents these 20 people who are directly responsible for making our tequila.
To avoid cultural appropriation, we also follow traditional agave harvesting methods. Since other distilleries harvest the agave before it’s mature, they add extra chemicals to make their tequila. Conversely, at Eleven20, we wait until the agave plants have naturally grown to the proper stage for harvesting. This might not turn a profit as quickly, but it does result in a higher-quality, all-natural tequila.
Our methods also follow the traditional Mexican way of making tequila. Other companies use modern technology and industrial equipment to speed production as much as possible. On the other hand, we roast our agave in ovens, the same natural cooking process Mexicans have used for centuries.
How to avoid cultural appropriation
Other brands can learn from Eleven20’s example. C-Suite executives at large international tequila companies should remember that our products are the fruits of Mexican culture and honor the people who make them. This should go beyond mere lip service. Leadership should keep an open line of communication with their Mexican employees to better understand, respect, and support their goals and aspirations.
We also encourage consumers to learn about the products they purchase. Pay attention to the origin, heritage, and ingredients of the tequila when deciding which to buy. Don’t fall for slick marketing campaigns. If it doesn’t come from Mexico and isn’t made from blue agave, then it’s not real tequila — no matter what the label says. Look for bottles that say “Made in Mexico” on the label. If it doesn’t say that, then it isn’t made from blue agave and isn’t authentic tequila at all.
Taste for yourself, and you will see that nothing tastes as good as true artisanal tequila. Let’s keep Mexico’s rich tradition alive by supporting the real thing.
About the Authors: Eleven20 Tequila is an award-winning tequila crafted with traditional distilling techniques and a passion for excellence. Founded by a husband and wife team, the brand uses only premium blue agave sourced from producers in the region. Through their commitment to quality, Eleven20 Tequila has become recognized as an innovator of flavor and aromas, with its signature blend being celebrated by mixologists and connoisseurs alike. With a culture rooted in respect for tradition, expertise, and craftsmanship, each bottle of Eleven20 Tequila is a testament to the highest standards of excellence.