Booze News: A Quarrel over Agave in Mexico

Who owns the word for this plant?
Who owns the word for this plant?
Amante Darmanin/Flickr

In Mexico, there's a fierce debate unfolding over which distilleries can use the word "agave" to describe their liquor. According to The New York Times, if a piece of legislation in Mexico is passed, only a few approved tequila and mezcal producers would essentially own the word.

Though tequila and mezcal are the most well-known agave-based spirits, Mexico has many other native alcoholic liquors and drinks made from different types of agave. The Tequila Interchange Project, a nonprofit group that monitors the tequila industry, estimates that there are 33 types of agave, which have been used for more than 400 years to make liquor, that wouldn't make the cut under the proposed legislation.

If the legislation is approved, any spirit produced outside the mezcal and tequila appellations would be branded "distilled agavacea," a name that refers to the family of plants that includes agave. Producers of these other spirits are upset because the "agave" designation is a sign of high quality, and helps with marketing.

According to the Times, American mixologists are vocally coming out against the legislation, saying that it harms small producers. If they're right, our Mexican liquor options may be limited in the future.

Let's also hope that the legislation won't affect the production of pulque -- an alcoholic drink made from the fermented sap of a type of the maguey plant, a type of agave -- which, as Lauren Shockey pointed out last week at Fork in the Road, makes for some fantastic drinking.

For more dining news, head to Fork in the Road, or follow us @ForkintheRoadVV, or me, Alexia Nader, @lexi1602. 

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