As the best-selling tequila brand in the world, Jose Cuervo has fueled countless escapades at bars and nightclubs around the world. With a rich history dating back more than two centuries and the oldest active distillery in Latin America, Cuervo has plenty of stories of its own.
Some of the tales are a little iffy, like Cuervo’s claim to inventing the Margarita. But a lot of the stories are firmly rooted in history, from the brand claiming the first ever official tequila production license, to the huge debt of gratitude tequila-loving Americans owe the early rail workers.
Whether you drink añejo neat or prefer ice cold Margaritas, read on to learn a little bit more about Cuervo.
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Cuervo Got a Royal Start.
Cuervo might seem like a 20th-century college mainstay, but it actually got its start with a royal grant of land. In 1758, José Antonio de Cuervo y Valdés obtained “a writ of land ownership” from King Ferdinand VI of Spain to grow agave for tequila production. By 1781, the Cuervo family was producing 800,000 liters per year — a drop in the bucket compared to the approximately 35 million liters it sold in 2020.
The Brand Claims a Big ‘First.’.
By 1795, after first attempting to prohibit foreign distilleries, King Carlos IV granted Jose María Guadalupe Cuervo y Montana the first (as in first-ever) license “to produce and distribute tequila” in the rich, volcanic soils of what is known today as Jalisco, Mexico. The family soon founded the “Taberna de Cuervo” and began legally distilling agave and selling tequila commercially.
The Brand Was Started By The Cuervos, But It’s Owned By The Beckmann’s.
Like many illustrious spirits brands, Cuervo started as a small, family-owned operation. But today, Cuervo is primarily owned by the billionaire Beckmann family based out of Mexico City. While the name has changed, the Beckmann’s are technically seventh generation direct-line descendants of the original Cuervo.
Cuervo Was The First To-Go Glass.
It may seem like late timing, but when Jose Cuervo started putting its tequila in glass bottles in the late 19th century, it was actually the first tequila company to do so, all the other distillers were using barrels. Demand was so high that the only way to keep the good stuff flowing was by parceling it out. To the delight of tequila lovers north of the border, glass made the liquid easier to transport and export. That same year, in 1880, Cuervo won first-place at the second Exposición de Las Clases Productoras exhibition held in Guadalajara.
We’ve Been Drinking Cuervo Since The 19th Century. (Not Continuously.)
We can thank the rise of the railroad for bringing Cuervo to the States. The tequila made its first stop in California in 1852, just in time to help gold rushers drown their sorrows when the shiny rocks they’d gathered turned out to be fool’s gold.
Some Cuervo Is Mixto.
“Mixto” is the term given to a tequila in which only 51 percent of the alcohol comes from agave (specifically Blue Weber) and the rest from sugarcane juice. The brand’s lower-end products, Jose Cuervo Especial Silver and Gold, are mixto, with labels reading “Made with Agave.” This tequila is pepper-hot, and not the best quality, but a few more dollars will get you into pure agave territory.
Plenty Of Cuervo Is Pure Agave.
Cuervo’s Tradicional Silver is 100 percent agave, and is priced right at around $20. The Reposado is a little sweeter with less piquant pepper, and is usually available for about $30. On the higher end is the Reserva de La Familia Reposada, coming in around $80, noted for an oaky depth and balanced flavor profile.
Cuervo Knows How To Get Fancy.
When only the finest will do, there’s the $140 Reserva de la Familia Añejo Max, in which the art of tequila making is on display. Only the most flavorful pulps from 10-12-year old agave vines are slow-cooked at the brand’s famous La Rojeña distillery. The liquid is then aged in toasted American and French oak barrels, after which master distiller Alex Coronado blends the three-year-old, super-premium tequila before signing and dating the wax-sealed, handmade bottles.
A Cocktail Waitress Wrote A Pretty Good Sing-Along Song About Cuervo.
Cindy Jordan, once named “Miss Jose Cuervo,” wrote the ode to Cuervo in 1977 while working as a waitress in southern California, but country singer Shelly West made it famous in 1983. As the lyrics go, “Jose Cuervo, you are a friend of mine. I like to drink you with a little salt and lime.” Many people can relate.
Speaking of Music, Cuervo Was Part Of The ‘Cocaine And Tequila Sunrise Tour.’
The Rolling Stones supposedly tasted their first Tequila Sunrises — a drink made famous by the Eagles’ song — at a bar called The Trident in San Francisco. Whether or not it was made with Cuervo is unclear, but it is pretty certain that Cuervo was the drink of choice on board the Lapping Tongue (the tour plane’s nickname, for obvious reasons).
Cuervo Loves Beach Volleyball.
Cuervo was the first major sponsor of a beach volleyball tournament in 1978. As regulations prohibited spirits companies from advertising on television at the time, creative marketers began sponsoring sporting events that would be televised in order to get brands’ logos seen across the world.
Cuervo’s Recycling Agave Stalks Into Surfboards.
Cuervo is a major contributor to the professional surfing scene. As a sign of what’s to come in terms of sustainability, surfboards fashioned out of agave wood made a splash at the Cuervo Surf Classic in 2020.
Billions Were Made With Cuervo’s IPO.
Chairman Juan Francisco Beckmann Vidal led Cuervo, and its parent company Becle, through the brand’s initial public offering in 2017 — netting $5.3 billion for the Beckmann family in the process.
Cuervo Sells More Than Just Tequila.
Not one to miss out on trends, Jose Cuervo made a splash when it released its Playamar Hard Seltzers. Made with Cuervo tequila, these beverages are incredibly sessionable at 4.5 percent ABV. The company struggled to keep up with demand for Margarita mixes in 2020, as quarantined Margarita lovers snatched up cases of Cuervo’s 1.75-liter ready-to-drink bottled Margs and four-packs of canned cocktails.
You Can Take A Luxury Train Ride To The Distillery.
The Beckmann family wants to turn the town of Tequila into a travel destination, not unlike a Napa Valley for tequila fans, complete with luxury hotels and high end restaurants. The main attraction, of course, is the tequila. For those who like to travel in style, the Jose Cuervo Express travels from Guadalajara to the Mundo Cuervo facilities.The Elite Wagon includes an open bar with “a line of cocktails designed exclusively for this experience, made with the finest spirits, including Tequila Maestro Dobel, Centenario, 1800, and Reserva de la Familia.”