BIT Blog

An Iguana's History of the Caballito

Here in Mexico, caballito is a very common word. This “little horse” refers the traditional tall, thin shot glass holding between 1 and 2 ounces of tequila. For sipping, of course. We all know tequila is not to shoot …unless you’ve clearly had way too many and the floor is starting to blur. Or you’re toting a gun.

Little horses got their name because men often found it funny to have their horses piss in each other’s tequilas when they weren’t looking. Just kidding. We only do that in the office. Really the name descends from cuernito, which means “little horn.” They removed the interior of bull or cow horns and cleaned them to make a manly looking chalice of sorts. They didn’t, however, have the option to set it down until the libation had been finished (a sneaky way to get people drunk really fast.) Considering the limited number of horns, there was a slam and pass philosophy. 

Man chalice, otherwise known as cuernito

The classic caballito holding the classic Bandera de Mexico Later, the tip was removed so a drinker could take their time, and it was this design that became the modern caballito. They do still make the traditional horn cups and I want to say, as an official statement, that if you drink Blue Iguana Tequila out of one I will consider you a bonafide badass. Just to be clear.

Recently, the CRT decided on a more uppity tequila glass, which resembles a wine glass with the classic tall stem and tapered bowl. Riedel makes the CRT approved version because it “highlights and enhances the characteristics” of a good tequila. Some tequila experts prefer añejos in a snifter because the shape traps the scents more efficiently. While fancy glasses are nice and all, they break a lot easier. Especially if you’re loaded. And down here in Mexico, little has changed. Most still proudly rock the caballito. This iguana is one of them.

For a great source of tequila know-how, visit Ian Chadwick's informative site. 

A Broken Heart: the Mythical Birth of the Agave

Tequila is one of the most popular alcohols in North America and is the first known distilled beverage, dating back to the early 16th century. It has been known as mescal wine, mescal brandy and agave wine. The original drink of the maguey before distillation is called pulque and dates back to 1000 B.C. or possibly earlier. The name tequila is adapted from a Nahuatl or Aztec word, teuitl, meaning “work, duty, job or task” and is associated with the terms “place of work”, “place of harvesting plants” and also “the rock that cuts” referring to the obsidian that is plentiful in the Tequila, Jalisco area. Formed by the volcano that erupted over 200,000 years ago, the obsidian created the legend to the dragon that resides in the Volcan de Tequila.

There are often creation legends born from ancient cultures. The legend of the nectar of agave is about a love affair of the gods. Tzinzimiti, the goddess of darkness, swallowed up the light and left the land in darkness. The Aztecs made human sacrifices to her in an attempt to keep the sunshine. Quetzalcoatl, a feathered serpent god, went to the heavens to fight the goddess and return the sunlight to the land. In his ascension, he met the granddaughter of the goddess, Mayahuel, the goddess of fertility and they fell in love and returned to Earth to live as trees so they would not be found. Tzinzimiti was very jealous of her granddaughter and came to Earth to find and kill her. Mayahuel died in the arms of her lover and he went in search of Tzinzimiti again for his revenge. An Agave grew from her burial mound with pointed leaves to protect her from falling objects and with 400 thorns to represent her 400 breasts - remember she was the goddess of fertility! The other gods saw how Quetzalcoatl cried at her grave and struck the Agave with lightning creating a sweet tasting and smelling sap that oozed from the Agave. If ingested could comfort him and erase the painful memories of his lost lover. The pure nectar was used as a sweetener and as it fermented into a strong visionary drink, known as pulque, and drank by the priests and nobility of the Nahuatl.

Later, after the Mexican revolution, pulque became looked down upon as a drink of the poor and indigenous and the “new” Mexico wanted a more refined drink - tequila. The golden age of cinema in Mexico during the 1940’s brought the ever growing in popularity tequila into the limelight and the general public were taught through films that tequila was a drink for all occasions and even some women were drinking it. Today tequila is one of the most popular drinks of Mexico and North America and still has the reputation to heal whatever ails you, especially if you need comfort or courage …and even more especially to heal a broken heart. 

An Iguana Recounts the Legend of Tequila

We’re not referring to your legacy from getting drunk and acting like an idiot which people spread all over the net (although that probably did happen …unfortunately for you.) No, this tale comes from the infamously agro Aztecs that conquered a highly civilized, intellectually advanced culture, called the Toltecs, in central Mexico. Of course there are two versions of the story.

In the Aztec version, they were forced to perform human sacrifices (otherwise known as a big whammy for the Toltecs) because an evil sky goddess stole their light. So, Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec’s good guy decided he was going to bring the smack down on the naughty goddess. However, when he got up to the sky where she was hiding out, he didn’t find her. Instead he found her hottie of a granddaughter, who happened to be a little goddess of fertility. We all know how that went.

Well, meanwhile Grandma was pissed. She started searching for them. When she finally found them a vicious battle ensued. The foxy harlot was slain, and Quetzalcoatl, in his anger, killed Grandma. (You can definitely see the murder theme flowing freely through Aztec myth. Coincidence? I think not.) The other gods took pity on poor, grieving Quetzalcoatl and a special plant begin to grow on the grave of his unlucky love.

The gods bestowed magical properties on the plant, giving it the power to soften the blow of a broken heart and incite hallucination. (For the record, the only hallucinations we’ve experienced are imagining we’re cooler, sexier or generally more well-liked than we actually are.) The purpose of this was to soothe the savage beast (it has the reverse reaction for us iguanas.)

This is the origin of what we now call “tequila beer,” which is fermented Blue Agave that hasn’t been distilled. Distillilation was introduces by dirty Spaniards, who thought of as prophesized (yet painfully stinky) gods were allowed to enter and ultimately destroy the empire. The Aztecs were rewarded with the finished libation to ease the pain of their broken culture, just like Quetzalcoatl. The Spanish on the other hand, continued not to bathe. And in this way, tequila, or fire-water, was born.