How the Gringos Stole Tequila: The Modern Age of Mexico’s Most Traditional Spirit

Reviewed by Richard Feinberg

In This Review

How the Gringos Stole Tequila: The Modern Age of Mexico’s Most Traditional Spirit
By Chantal Martineau
Chicago Review Press, 2015
304 pp.

Martineau journeys through Mexico interviewing producers of the agave-based spirits tequila and mescal. She’s dismayed that international beverage distributors now design and market Mexico’s signature alcoholic drinks and that techniques of mass production too often sacrifice integrity and authenticity. She is appalled at the bottling of exported bulk tequila in the United States—which consumes roughly twice as much tequila as Mexico itself—and the potential loss of quality control it represents. She mocks celebrity endorsements of brands, although she approves of the actor George Clooney donating the profits from the sales of his Casamigos tequila to humanitarian aid projects in Sudan. She is excited by the resurgence of mescal, which has retained more of its traditional methods and terroir. Upscale mescal has become the hip drink of sophisticated young Mexicans who wish to celebrate their national or pre-Colombian roots. An appendix lists Martineau’s choices for the best-made tequilas and mescals. She is particularly fond of the brand Siete Leguas: “earthy and sweet, bursting with cooked agave flavors and hints of spice.”

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