A brief glimpse into the increasing gentrification of tequila.
Widely published food and travel journalist Martineau makes her nonfiction debut with this thoroughly researched study of what appears to be a growing trend in the spirit world: the rise of tequila from a low-end frat-party tipple to a high-end connoisseur’s sipping drink. But the book is about more than just tequila’s new image as a luxury product; it’s also about the processes and people behind the making of the drink, the conflicts over mass-produced tequila versus more exclusive artisanal tequila (Patron et al.), and the agave activists who fight to keep tequila “real”—i.e., a Mexican product through and through. “How Mexicans are viewed—either by themselves or by foreigners—has long influenced how tequila is marketed,” writes the author, “both in the United States and in Mexico.” Through the marketing of tequila, using old-world Mexican authenticity as its selling point, it has become, ironically, just as American as it is Mexican. Martineau chronicles her interviews with a variety of industry insiders, from small producers and agave growers from Mexico’s Jalisco region to hipster mixologists and corporate CEOs pushing their upper-crust customers to take on what passes for authentic Mexican tequila. The real problem is not so much that age-old traditions are being made a mockery of in the mass production of tequila; the trouble comes when the production and bottling of the drink get increasingly co-opted by corporations based in the U.S., which means fewer jobs for Mexican workers in Mexico. So, as Martineau objectively presents it, the very factors that are making tequila so popular are also threatening to undermine it. Unfortunately, however, the book’s reportorial nature doesn’t lend itself to theorizing on what might ultimately be the answer to tequila’s curious new authenticity problem.
An informative but somewhat inconclusive study.