In 1565 the Spanish introduced a super-efficient trade route: Manila to Acapulco, then overland to Veracruz and on to Spain. Filipino sailors aboard the Spanish galleons brought with them portable stills they used to make coconut-based lambanog. The stills were a huge hit in Mexico, but inland regions weren’t exactly flush with coconuts, so the native population quickly turned to agave.
(Historical Note!: Based on archaeological evidence found in the Jalisco town of Amatitán, historians including Miguel Claudio Jiménez Vizcarra believe that distillation actually occurred in Mexico before these stills arrived; if so, those sailors can’t be credited with making mezcal possible, but they can still be thanked for making it far easier to make.)