“This riveting, beautifully-written book presents a groundbreaking examination of why and how tequila has achieved special distinction as a national symbol. Especially impressive is Gaytán’s discussion of the ritual practices associated with tequila and the multiple ways in which the drink has come to represent both tradition and modernity. Simply terrific.”

—Stanley H. Brandes,
author of Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead: The Day of the Dead in Mexico and Beyond

“This book is its namesake liquor manifested: blanco in its rollicking prose, reposado in its smooth unveiling of an epic saga, añejo in its deep research. Add a touch of lime and salt, and you have a perfect evening of reading.”

—Gustavo Arellano,
author and columnist of ¡Ask a Mexican!

This fascinating, well-written book explores how tequila has come to symbolize what it means to be Mexican. Using a historical anthropological perspective, sociologist Gaytán (Utah) traces the pre-Hispanic uses of fermented pulque and the post-Hispanic rise of distilled mescal and tequila from the agave. As commodities, these agave-based alcoholic drinks reflected cultural tensions in Mexican society, especially between Indigenous and European sensibilities. After the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century, media and popular culture in both Mexico and the US helped crystallize tequila’s place as a drink that held the essence of what Gaytán calls “Mexicanness.” In the face of US influence and investment, tequila began to cross racial and class boundaries. It also appealed to the Mexican government’s 20th-century drive to modernity. Revolutionary figures, such as Pancho Villa (though a known teetotaler), became inextricably linked to the macho, tequila-drinking heroes of Mexico’s past. Mexican cinema helped entrench tequila in the romantic vision of the cowboy culture of the strongly European Jalisco state. A must read for all serious scholars of Mexican history as well as those engaged in alcohol studies research. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.

F. H. Smith, College of William and Mary

¡Tequila! is an intellectual spirit, and a model for rigorous transnational and interdisciplinary analysis of Mexico’s tequila cultural symbolism, production and consumption. A superb investigation of Mexican nationalist consumption and power.”

—Deborah R. Vargas,
Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Riverside

Food and drink are every bit as important to national images as flags and anthems. For Mexicans, tequila, sipped with a slice of limón and a pinch of salt, is, as Marie Sarita Gaytán puts it, the very spirit of Mexico. For diners in Mexican Restaurants worldwide, tequila-based margaritas along with serapes, sombreros and mariachi music help manufacture a sense of fiesta.

Yet, as Gaytán points out in this deft history, tequila is, like most national icons, of recent vintage […]

Rachel Laudan,
Times Literary Supplement

“Today’s image of tequila is one that exudes glamour and a fun party lifestyle. Gaytán (sociology, gender studies, Univ. of Utah), however, aims to paint an entirely new picture with her retelling and research on tequila and its humble beginnings as well its impact on Mexicans and their heritage. Much like the cigar industry in Florida, the origins of tequila go far beyond the product itself. The author succeeds in showcasing the unexpected and complex importance of tequila to Mexican heritage and culture. By the end of this text it is clear that the drink in question is more than just a drink: it’s about national identity and aids in understanding the people of Mexico and their past.

Verdict The author provides an enlightening and intriguing look into the sociological impacts and historical importance of tequila. Lovers of Latin American culture and industry will enjoy this in-depth glimpse into what is one of the most important facets of Mexican society. Not only will fans of history appreciate this research, but students of sociology can revel in the knowledge that has come from Gaytán’s extensive probe into this often misunderstood drink.”

Angie Solis, Wesley Chapel, FL | Library Journal

This is a review of a really nice book, which I have spent my summer vacation reading. There is a lot of literature about tequila, mezcal and Mexico but there really are not that many, really good books with a broad perspective on the subjects. Most authors seem to be satisfied with colportation of more or less established myths mixed with margarita recipes and some nice pictures. This is different!

Marie Sarita Gaytán is the author of “¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico” published on Stanford University Press 2014. Over 6 chapters she writes on tequila from a broad cultural and historic perspective. Focus is, in her own words, on: “defining the process through which commodities acquire significance…” It is, at least in a European context, an established method with some roots in semiology, and she is using it with great flair. The book is easy to read and very inspiring.

[…] Highly Recommended! (more)

Bjørn Smalbro, Tequila.dk | tequilalist.com

As Tequila nerds, we love trivia. “How long does it take agave to mature? How long is añejo aged? Who first exported Tequila?” All too often, knowledge of these basic, rote facts is touted as expertise. The deeper questions of Tequila’s meaning(s), winners, losers and future trajectory are all too often sidestepped or not even considered. Marie Sarita Gaytán’s ¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico is a fantastic book that addresses these issues in a way that’s likely new for the non-academic Tequila fan.

¡Tequila! presents and analyzes Mexico’s most famous beverage as “a complex cultural commodity…first and foremost…about the people of Mexico.” The book is a critical cultural analysis of how and why Tequila came to be constructed as a potent symbol of Mexican national identity and its changing meanings throughout history and into contemporary times. Gaytán is a sociologist and although I am sure this book will be used in undergraduate university courses, the book is lucid, accessibly written and of interest to all Tequila aficionados. (more)

Clayton J. Szczech | experiencetequila.com