LIKE champagne, tequila may be called tequila only if it comes from a specific region. Distillers in five of Mexico’s 31 states have the exclusive right to produce the famous firewater. Bottlers elsewhere must use alternative names, though their product is distilled in the same way from the sap of the agave, a spiky desert succulent often wrongly referred to as a cactus.
Demand for tequila is growing fast. Americans now drink more of the stuff than Mexicans—a head-throbbing 120m litres a year. Producers outside the official tequila region are cashing in. The “agave liquor” they sell is cheaper than real tequila and tastes identical, at least to the barbarian gringo palate.