April 2013
The Year
was... 1998
BY w. r. Tish
Features on tequila were few and far
between in
Beverage Media
right up
through the 1980s, but by 1998 the
agave mojo was definitely in high gear.
Our August 1998 over story touched on
the spurt of luxury tequilas (topped by
Jose Cuervo’s $18,000 “1800 Millennium”
casks) as well as concerns that the 24 dis-
tilleries and 90,000 acres under cultivation
in the Mexican state of Jalisco might not be
able to keep up with demand.
Indeed, supply has
kept up, with an explosion
of labels that makes the
34 brands on the back-
bar at Jimmy’s in Aspen,
CO, in 1998 seem almost
quaint today.
Assessing the root of
increased demand, we
wrote: “Tequila is rap-
idly assuming cult status
primarily because it is
being adopted by Genera-
tion X drinkers between 22-29. Many of
these young men and women who have
tried tequila in the past are now, as they
start moving out of the low-rent district into
homes and condominiums, are able to
upgrade drinking choices and are curiosu
to try new experiences.”
We also noted the “fast-growing cot-
tage industry” of Margarita-making materi-
als such as bottled and powdered mixes
and colored glass-rimming salt.
Neither mezcals nor flavored tequilas
were a blip on the radar in 1998; however,
McCormick Distillers had just released
the cream liqueur Tequila Rose, in a black
bottle to protect against ultraviolet rays.
(Java and Cocoa have since joined the
original strawberry.)
And we noted the role of on-premise:
“Growth in tequila has obviously been
fueled by the boom in Tex-Mex spicy foods.
But haute-cuisine Mexican restaurants
report a huge, often unanticipated busi-
ness in premium tequila drinks.”
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