Jose Cuervo

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Jose Cuervo
ManufacturerProximo Spirits
Country of origin Mexico
Introduced27 May 1795; 228 years ago (1795-05-27)
Alcohol by volume 35%–40% abv
Proof (US)70–80

Jose Cuervo is the best-selling brand of tequila,[1] selling a fifth of the tequila consumed worldwide.[2]

As of 2012, Jose Cuervo sells 3.5 million cases of tequila in the US annually, accounting for a third of the US tequila market.[2] Jose Cuervo is family-owned and is run today by the Beckmann family, descendants of Don José Antonio de Cuervo. Juan-Domingo Beckmann is the sixth-generation leader of the company.[3] In July 2013 the Beckmann family's Proximo Spirits took over distribution of Jose Cuervo from Diageo, following Diageo's failed attempt to buy the company.[2]


Early history[edit]

In 1758, Don José Antonio de Cuervo was issued a land grant by King Ferdinand VI of Spain in the town of Tequila, Jalisco. Here his family founded the Taberna de Cuervo, the farm where they would cultivate and harvest the flowering blue agave plant, a water-retaining plant found in central Mexico that is fermented then distilled to create tequila.[3][4][5] The first Vino Mezcal de Tequila de Jose Cuervo was made in 1795,[6] after Don José Antonio de Cuervo's son José María Guadalupe de Cuervo was granted a permit from King Carlos IV of Spain to produce tequila commercially, following a time of prohibition under King Carlos III. This was the birth of the tequila industry.[7]

By 1880, the Cuervo family had begun individually bottling tequila for commercial distribution.[8] Cuervo was the first distiller to bottle tequila, at a time when other distillers were still using barrels.[9] Tequila was known as "mezcal de tequila" until 1893, when tequila makers and the Mexican government dropped "mezcal" from the name.[7] Cuervo's first bottled tequila was sold in 1906.[9]

Upon the death of Don Jesús, his wife, Ana González Rubio, inherited La Rojeña and in 1900 married José Cuervo Labastida, head of La Constancia. From then on, the brand became Jose Cuervo Tequila. After Ana Gonzélez Rubio's death in 1934, the estate was left to her niece Guadalupe Gallardo, who died in 1966 and left the estate to her sister, Virginia Gallardo. One of her sons, Juan Beckmann Gallardo, would manage the business. Part of Cuervo was owned by Distribuidora Bega, and, starting in 1979, the other part was owned by Grupo Cuervo, made up of Beckmann, his son Juan Beckmann Vidal, José Luis Campos, and Heublein Inc.[10]

Recent history[edit]

Along with Sauza, Cuervo began to dominate the tequila industry in the 1940s.[10] Tequila first made significant inroads into the United States during the Prohibition era, when it was smuggled from Mexico into southwestern US states. Tequila made further advances in the US during World War II, when many US distilleries switched to war-related production and there were restrictions on European imports. Then, in the 1980s, more American tourists visited Mexico, discovering tequila.[4] According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the US demand for tequila has risen over the years, with 12 million cases shipped to the US in 2012, a 54% increase as compared to a decade earlier. The fastest-growing segment has been super-premium blue agave spirits.[11]

In 1989, the Beckmann family sold 45% of Jose Cuervo to International Distillers and Vintners (IDV), a division of Grand Metropolitan PLC.[12] In 1997, Grand Metropolitan merged with Guinness plc to become Diageo which would be Jose Cuervo's main distributor outside of Mexico until 2013.[2][10][13] Starting in 2011, Diageo, the world's largest liquor maker, was in talks to acquire Jose Cuervo from the Beckmann family[6] for in excess of $3 billion.[1][14] After it was unable to acquire the brand, Diageo announced in December 2012 that it would end the US distribution deal.[15] In a deal first announced in March 2013, Proximo Spirits, a company owned by the Beckmann family, took over Jose Cuervo's distribution beginning in July 2013.[2]

La Rojeña distillery[edit]

Workers load agave hearts into ovens at the José Cuervo Distillery in Tequila, Mexico.


Jose Cuervo is produced at the La Rojeña distillery in the state of Jalisco in Mexico. The distillery was officially founded in 1812. It is the oldest active distillery in Latin America.[5][16] After Ana González Rubio married José Cuervo Labastida in 1900, he renamed the distillery La Rojeña, and was the first to call the tequila produced there Jose Cuervo.[9][10] After the death of Don Vincente, Jesús Flores (owner of the distillery now known as La Constancia) took over management of La Rojeña. He was the first to package the tequila into damajuanas (rope-encased jugs), where previously they had been stored only in wooden barrels.[7] The damajuanas were later replaced with individual bottles, making it easier to transport the tequila across the border to America. The company shipped its first export of three bottles across the border in 1873.[5]

In order for a spirit to be called tequila, it must come from the blue agave plant, a species found only in Jalisco and four nearby regions in central Mexico.[8][12] All Jose Cuervo tequila continues to be made in the town of Tequila in the state of Jalisco in Mexico.[1][6]

Distillation process[edit]

The blue agave plant has spiked leaves and a round, fleshy core (the piña). The leaves are chopped off and the core is cooked and crushed to create juice, which is fermented and distilled to make tequila. The resulting unaged, clear tequila is then diluted with water to bring the alcohol content down to around 40%.[17] Pure tequila is distilled 100% from the sap of the blue agave plant, while mixto tequilas only need to be at least 51% blue agave in order to legally be called tequila.[11] In 1964, tequila makers were allowed to obtain up to 30% of the sugars in tequila from sources other than the agave plant.[10] During a blue agave shortage in the 1970s, Mexican regulations were further revised to require that tequila contain only 51.5% agave.[12] Agave plants take 10 to 12 years to mature and become ripe, while sugarcane can be harvested every year, so blending the agave spirit with sugarcane spirit is a cheaper method, while using 100% blue agave plant is more expensive.[18]

The Cuervo Express[edit]

The Jose Cuervo Express train was opened to visitors in February 2012 to help promote tourist development in the Jalisco area. The train travels 60 kilometers from Guadalajara to Tequila, taking two hours to journey through the agave fields and past volcanoes. Upon arrival in Tequila, guests are able to take a tour of the Jose Cuervo factory and La Rojeña distillery.[16]

Types of tequila[edit]


Tequila is naturally clear after fermentation and distillation are complete. This type is called “blanco” or “white”. “Plata” or “silver” on the other hand, despite its color being the same as “blanco”, is an aged version of tequila which got decolorized after being kept in barrels for months or years.


After the fermentation and distillation processes, tequila can then be aged in oak barrels, giving it a golden hue. There are three variations of gold tequila. Reposados have a pale amber color, as they typically spend 2 to 12 months in oak barrels. Añejos have a darker gold color and more flavor contributions from the barrel, as they are typically aged 1 to 3 years in oak barrels. Extra añejo, which has an even darker color and richer flavor, is 100% blue agave and aged more than three years.[4][18][11] The occasionally smoky flavors of extra añejo tequilas have been compared to those typically found in brandy and scotch.[17] The extra añejo designation for tequilas aged more than three years was approved by Mexico's National Committee on Standardization in 2006.[17]

Jose Cuervo tequilas[edit]

Especial Silver[edit]

Cuervo Especial products are mixto tequilas. Especial Silver is an unaged white tequila containing at least 51% agave, with the remainder being made up of sugarcane spirit.[18]

Especial Reposado[edit]

Especial Reposado (commonly referred to as "Cuervo Gold") is a blend of reposado and younger tequilas of at least 51% agave, with caramel coloring added to the finished product to give it the gold color, also known as joven tequila.[4][19][20]


In 2013, Proximo launched Jose Cuervo Cinge, a cinnamon-infused 35% abv version of Especial Silver.[21][22][23] It is one of many cinnamon-infused liquors on the market. See Fireball and discussion therein.[A]


Cuervo's Tradicional has been produced since 1795.[5] Its varieties, Silver and Reposado, are 100% agave tequilas. The reposado achieves its amber color through six months of barrel aging. Silver was launched in 2011.[24]


Cuervo Black was a mixto añejo tequila that included sugar cane spirit, aged one year in oak barrels. It was named on Bloomberg Businessweek's 2009 list of the world's 20 best-tasting tequilas.[25] It is no longer available.


Platino is 100% agave, handcrafted using a proprietary process in which the steam is recaptured to bring in more flavor before the tequila is chill-filtered. It was named on Bloomberg Businessweek's 2009 list of the world's 20 best-tasting tequilas,[8][25] and awarded the Beverage Tasting Institute's highest rating, Superlative.[26]

Reserva de la Familia[edit]

Reserva de la Familia was introduced in 1995 to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the distillery. Reserva de la Familia is a high-end offering of 100% blue agave tequila,[12] matured in the La Rojeña distillery's private cellars.[8] Its first edition sold out weeks after its release.[10] Reserva de la Familia is classified as an extra añejo tequila, meaning it is 100% agave aged over three years in an oak barrel, giving it a deeper golden color with a richer flavor more typically tasted in scotch or brandy.[17] It would become Cuervo's first extra añejo offering after the high-end distinction was created in 2005.[17] It was named on Bloomberg Businessweek's 2009 list of the world's 20 best-tasting tequilas,[25] and on a list of the 18 best tequilas in the world in Men's Journal in 2013.[27]


Cuervo offers several pre-made margaritas. The Authentic Margarita and Light Margarita varieties contain Cuervo Gold and are 9.95% alcohol by volume.[28] Golden Margarita contains Grand Marnier liqueur along with Cuervo Gold, and is 12.7% abv.[29] The Margarita Mix does not contain any alcohol.[30]


1800 Tequila, owned by Jose Cuervo and previously labeled Cuervo 1800 before being distributed by Proximo Spirits starting in 2008, is a 100% agave tequila, available in various silver, reposado and añejo varieties.[31]

Maestro Dobel[edit]

Maestro Dobel Tequila is a family owned, single estate, ultra-premium Tequila, named after creator Juan Domingo Beckmann Legorreta (DOBEL), an 11th generation Tequila producer, and chief executive officer of the Tequila Jose Cuervo empire. Maestro Dobel Tequila is carefully controlled and managed from farm to bottle, and strikes a delicate balance between tradition and innovation.[32]

Product list[edit]

Name ABV (US) Notes
Especial Gold 40% Mixto
Especial Silver 40% Mixto
Cinge 35% Cinnamon-infused mixto
Tradicional Reposado 40% 100% agave
Tradicional Plata 40% 100% agave
Tradicional Anejo 40% 100% agave
Reserva de la Familia 40% 100% blue agave extra añejo
Authentic Margarita 9.95% Pre-made margarita, made with Cuervo Gold
Light Margarita 9.95% Lower calorie pre-made margarita, made with Cuervo Gold, available in Lime and Wild Berry flavors
Golden Margarita 12.7% Pre-made margarita, made with Cuervo Gold and Grand Marnier liqueur
Margarita Mix 0% Pre-made margarita that doesn't contain alcohol, available in Lime and Strawberry Lime flavors

Honors and awards[edit]

  • In 1889, Mexican president Porfirio Díaz awarded Cuervo its first gold medal for the quality of tequila it produced.
  • In 1907, Cuervo won the Gran Premio in Madrid, Spain.[9]
  • In 1909, Cuervo won the Grand Prix in Paris, France.[9]
  • In 2009, Bloomberg Businessweek named Jose Cuervo Silver, Platino, Reserva de la Familia and Black four of the world's twenty best-tasting tequilas.[25]
  • The Reserva de la Familia añejo was awarded a double gold medal at the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.[33]


In 1979, Jose Cuervo became beach volleyball's first major sponsor. After the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) tour folded in 2010, the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball Series was launched in 2011 by IMG and USA Volleyball with three events across the US, and upped the number to seven in 2012.[34][35] With the return of the AVP tour in 2013, the Cuervo Series was not continued.[36]

In popular culture[edit]

Cuervo Gold is referred to in Steely Dan's song "Hey Nineteen", on their album Gaucho, released in 1980. The lyric is, "The Cuervo Gold / The fine Colombian / Make tonight a wonderful thing."[37]

In 1978, after a stint as a poster girl for Jose Cuervo Tequila, Cindy Jordan wrote a country song titled "Jose Cuervo", the first song she ever wrote. The song references the tequila in the lyrics, "Jose Cuervo, you are a friend of mine."[38] Recorded by Shelly West in 1983, it was named Billboard magazine's 1983 Country Song of the Year[38] after reaching number 1 on the Billboard country songs chart.[39]

The song "Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo" by country music artist Tracy Byrd documents a man's night drinking Cuervo after his girlfriend breaks up with him. It reached number 1 on the Billboard country songs chart in 2002.[40] Other country songs that mention the liquor are "The Dope Smokin' Song" by Hank Flamingo and "Drink Canada Dry" by David Allan Coe.

In the 2004 MMORPG game World of Warcraft, there are some items referencing Jose Cuervo, like "Cuergo's Gold" and "Hozen Cuervo".

In Carrie Underwood's 2008 song Last Name describing a woman meeting a man at a club and later eloping with him in Las Vegas after having had too much to drink that night, Cuervo tequila is referenced in the line "So I'll blame it on the Cuervo".

Cuervo Silver is shown to be enjoyed on multiple occasions on the Showtime series Dexter (2006–13).

A moody 2013 ad campaign for Cuervo Especial starred actor Kiefer Sutherland.[41]

Beyoncé references Jose Cuervo on her 2016 song "Formation", from her album Lemonade, with the line, "I twirl on my haters, albino alligators / El Camino with the seat low, sippin’ Cuervo with no chaser."[42]



  1. ^ "If you're in the market for boozy Red Hots, Jose Cuervo's Cinge should do the trick. Clocking in at 35 percent alcohol by volume, this syrupy hooch has about as much in common with tequila as Fireball does with whiskey." Morgan, Tara (January 15, 2014). "Flavored Tequilas: Only for the adventurous (or young)". Boise Weekly. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.


  1. ^ a b c Dana Cimilluca, Paul Sonne and Simon Zekaria, “Diageo Ends Its Attempt to Buy Jose Cuervo Tequila,” Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e Schultz, E. J. (July 1, 2013). "McCann Wins Cuervo as Tequila Leaves Diageo in U.S.". Advertising Age.
  3. ^ a b William M. Dowd, “Getting beneath the Jose Cuervo story,” Dowd's Spirits Notebook, November 9, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d Michael Dietsch, “The Serious Eats Guide to Tequila,” Serious Eats, April 19, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d “Casa Cuervo: Timeless Tequila,” Industry Today, Volume 6, Issue 2, 2003.
  6. ^ a b c Jeffrey McCracken & Jacqueline Simmons, “Diageo Is Said to Be in Talks to Buy Jose Cuervo Tequila Brand From Family,” Bloomberg Businessweek, May 25, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c "Part 2 of 3: Tequila's History: 18th & 19th Centuries". In Search of the Blue Agave. Ian Chadwick. May 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d “At Jose Cuervo, 254-year old tradition reigns,”, April 27, 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d e “Tequila’s History: 20th & 21st Centuries,” In Search of the Blue Agave, May 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d e f “Casa Cuervo, S.A. de C.V. History,” Funding Universe. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c Eric Asimov, “Blanco Tequila: The Great Divide,” New York Times, July 25, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d Julia Preston, “Drinking Tequila but Thinking Cognac, Maybe?” The New York Times, January 4, 1996.
  13. ^ Nick Fletcher, “Diageo ends talks to take control of Jose Cuervo tequila business,” The Guardian, December 11, 2012.
  14. ^ James Thompson, “Diageo calls time on Jose Cuervo talks,” The Independent, December 11, 2012.
  15. ^ Becky Paskin, “Cuervo: Diageo Split Has Created Better Opportunity,” The Spirits Business, November 21, 2013.
  16. ^ a b “All Aboard the Jose Cuervo Express,” Nearshore Americas, May 3, 2012.
  17. ^ a b c d e Florence Fabricant, “Tequila, by the Snifter,” New York Times, November 29, 2006.
  18. ^ a b c David Kiley, “Tequila Rising,” Bloomberg Businessweek, March 12, 2009.
  19. ^ "Gold or Joven Tequila". Archived from the original on 2013-10-14. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  20. ^ "Jose Cuervo Especial Facts".[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Proximo To Spend $10 Million on Jose Cuervo Cinge Launch". Shanken News Daily. October 11, 2013. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  22. ^ Morgan, Tara (January 15, 2014). "Flavored Tequilas: Only for the adventurous (or young)". Boise Weekly. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  23. ^ Kleinman, Geoff (December 20, 2013). "Review: Jose Cuervo Cinge Cinnamon Flavored Tequila". Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  24. ^ Lara Eurdolian, “Jose Cuervo Launches Tradicional Silver Tequila,” Pretty Connected, January 16, 2011.
  25. ^ a b c d David Kiley, “The World’s Best-Tasting Tequilas,” Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine Bloomberg Businessweek, March 12, 2009.
  26. ^ Nick Harman, “Jose Cuervo Platino Tequila. Is this the present you’re looking for?” Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine Foodepedia, December 3, 2008.
  27. ^ Nils Bernstein and Jason Fine, "The 18 Best Tequilas in the World," Men's Journal, December 17, 2013.
  28. ^ "Jose Cuervo Authentic Margarita, Classic Lime (9.95% Alc.) Nutritional Information," Archived 2014-02-23 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved February 9, 2014.
  29. ^ "Jose Cuervo Golden Margarita (12.7% alc.)," Retrieved February 9, 2014.
  30. ^ "Jose Cuervo Margarita The Original Mix , Classic" Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  31. ^ "Proximo Jose Cuervo distribution".
  32. ^ "Maestro Dobel Tequila".
  33. ^ " Award Summary for Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia". Archived from the original on 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  34. ^ Amanda Rykoff, “Beach Volleyball Tour Seeks Lasting Impact,” ESPN, June 27, 2012.
  35. ^ Baxter Holmes, “Beach volleyball: Jose Cuervo Series doubles events for 2012 tour,” Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2012.
  36. ^ Darren Heitner, “The Business of Professional Beach Volleyball Shows Promise As Final Event of 2013 Approaches,” Forbes, October 16, 2013.
  37. ^ Brian Sweet, Steely Dan: Reelin' in the Years, London: Omnibus Press, 1994.
  38. ^ a b Tom Kelley, “Songwriter turns to video after big ‘Jose Cuervo’ hit,” Seguin Gazette-Enterprise, April 8, 1988.
  39. ^ Shelly West – Biography, Billboard. Accessed February 9, 2014.
  40. ^ Tracy Byrd, Chart History, Hot Country Songs, Billboard. Accessed November 22, 2013.
  41. ^ Sam Thielman, “Ad of the Day: Kiefer Sutherland Sells It In Noir for Jose Cuervo,” Ad Week, August 7, 2013.
  42. ^ Hilton Als, "Beywatch," The New Yorker, May 30, 2016.

External links[edit]