The Genesis of Tequila’s Bad Name?

by on August 13, 2013

While researching some drink history in old newspaper archives, I came across this great article/story about tequila. Though I'm sure it was written in a humorous "tongue-in-cheek" style, it doesn't paint tequila in a very good light. However, we have all heard the stories about how tequila causes hallucinations and crazy stuff happens when people drink it, but there has never been any real proof.  It is a fact many people prefer to drink tequilas and mezcal straight and do not suffer any crazy side effects. So where did the stories of crazy experiences come from? I'd put money down that this article from 1915 was the start, and as the story was syndicated to other newspapers, tequila was forever painted with the brush of wild behaviour. 

From the September 12, 1915 edition of the Duluth News-Tribune.  

Tequila Means Hell Water
Mexican Drink Like Hot Iron

Traveler Who Knows Tells Spalding Bartender What National Beverage Is Like—Spaniards Stole the Recipe From Satan

"Got any Tequila!" inquired the traveling man at the Spalding bar, last night.
"Come again, sir. I don't quite get you," said the bartender.

"I was asking for the Mexican national drink, but' you can just make it a Scotch highball," said the hotel guest. ''When I was down in Mexico selling farm machinery" the traveler poceeded to explain, "a prominent, Mexican told me that some time in the dim and distant past, the devil put all his chemicals to work to devise the meanest drink that could entrap man. The Spaniards swiped the recipe and when Cortez visited Mexico he taught the Montezumas how to make it—and their downfall began right there."

"This is the real reason why thoughtful Mexicans hate the Spaniards." 
"Has it really got such a 'kick' to it" the proprietor wanted to know.

"Sure!" replied the drummer who had tried it, and then he continued:
"Satan took some liquid lava, sort of toned it down with Tabasco sauce, mixed in a little prussic acid and sulphuric dope, dissolved a lot of barbed wire in aquafortis, made an emulsion of asafoetida and cayenne pepper, charged it with the hilarity of hell and mixed it all together. He was pleased with his work. If he had known the English language he would have called it "Eureka" but as he didn't, he labeled it 'Tequila." "Te" for' hell, "quila" for water—'Hell·water.'

"Compared to it bootleg whisky is milk and fit only for babies and pink teas. It will kill at 200 yards. Let a tame pigeon get a whiff of it and it will lick any three gamecocks alive. A pink-eyed bunny will chase a wildcat up a tree."

"Swallow a little of It and you think a red hot poker has been melted and poured down your throat, and in about two minutes, or less, a ton of brick falls from somewhere. When you come to your veins are full of burning acid, your month would gin two bales to the acre, your knees are out of control and you can see pink giraffes climbing through the keyhole, while bedbugs as big as turtles saunter carelessly around the room. A regiment or blacksmiths use your head for an anvil, and all your internal machinery is jammed and shrieking for water, which makes you deadly sick the moment It touches your mouth.

"Then any man who has a lick of sense resolves that he will never again try to experiment with native beverages, and he climbs on the water wagon, there to remain until he dies of old age, or comes back to the United Slates where they make things that are meant for the consumption of white gentlemen."

And the Duluth barkeeper bowed his head and vowed he would never—never, try "Tequila."

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