The problem, it seems, is that the world loves the Mexican spirit a little too much, which may be surprising to drinkers who would take a shot of almost anything over tequila. It’s become so popular that Mexican producers are struggling to keep up with global demand.
Reuters reports the 17.7 million blue agave tequilana succulents planted by farmers in Mexico’s key areas for tequila production in 2011 have turned out to be a far cry from the 42 million required to meet the needs of 140 registered companies that make the spirit. The price of the plant has increased six times since 2016, from 3.85 pesos (around 26 Australian cents) to 22 pesos ($AU1.50) per kilo.
To get around the shortages, farmers have been harvesting the plants before they’ve fully matured and the yield from these younger plants has been significantly smaller – consequently, they need many more plants to meet demand. According to tequila-industry experts, the shortages could continue through to 2021. No bueno!
Some people seem to be going to extreme lengths to weather the oncoming storm/shortage.
But are Australians all that bothered? A 2015 Roy Morgan study found that tequila drinkers in Australia declined from 336,000 to 312,000 in just one four-week period. Research shows of all the white spirits available, tequila is our least favourite.
Chef Neil Perry and his loyal fans don’t seem too troubled: in March he opened Bar Patrón in Sydney – a 90-seat Mexican restaurant that also features a Patrón tequila bar - with the star drink being the Millionaire's Margherita. Here’s hoping he has his supplies sorted for the next few years!
Of course, if the worst-case scenario plays out and our tequila stocks dry up, we can always opt for mezcal, tequila’s slightly more abundant cousin.
While tequila (similar to the French wine-classification laws) can only be labelled tequila if made from the agave tequilana (just one of many varieties of the agave plant) and in Jalisco, its cousin mezcal can be derived from a wider range of agave varieties (about 30, according to Food Republic, while Eater claims any will do). This means it's unlikely to run out quite so quickly. Flavour-wise, aficionados will be able to distinguish mezcal from tequila for its sweet, smoky profile. Mezcal is typically served with an orange rind, neat, but can be used in a variety of cocktails or even as a food flavouring, as in this recipe for kingfish aguiachile.
Mezcalito in Melbourne might be a good place to try your new favourite drink on for size.
No matter how you’re taking this news, there might never be a better excuse for mid-week margaritas. Here’s our recipe.
This is the perfect cocktail to accompany Mexican food. Not only is this a cocktail of beauty, it is a refreshing blend of sweet and sour elements.