Tequila is popular with occasional and enthusiastic drinkers alike. It has an intense flavor that not many can handle, but this Mexican liquor remains sought-after by many. And those of you who are familiar with this robust drink may have already heard of a tequila worm resting at the bottom of the bottle. Stories of a worm floating around in tequila bottles have been around for decades.
But is there any truth to these rumors? Is your tequila safe? Here’s everything you need to know about the tequila worm.
What Is a Tequila Worm?
Yes, the tequila worm is very real.
But before we officially meet this tiny critter, let’s tackle a few misconceptions about the tequila worm.
First, the name itself needs to be more accurate. The creature at the bottom of your tequila bottle is not a worm, and it is not alive.
What you may have seen resting at the bottom of the bottle is the mezcal larvae, also called gusano de maguey, which is actually commonly used in Mexican food. The larvae are named after the maguey plant that it feeds off and from which both tequila and Mezcal are made.
In fact, there are two types of mezcal larvae — meocuile, or the white maguey worm, and chilocuile, or the red maguey worm.
The second fact about tequila worms is that the worm can only be found in a bottle of Mezcal. Both tequila and Mezcal share many similarities, but the worm is not one of them. Both alcoholic drinks are proudly Mexican-made, they have the same Alcohol by Volume or ABV, and both have agave content.
But that’s where the similarities end. Tequila is a type of Mezcal. Mezcal can be made from many varieties of agave, whereas tequila can only be made from the blue agave plant. Essentially, Mezcal that is made from more than 51% distillate of blue agave is tequila.
And tequila has no worm. Mezcal does.
Now, why is this worm in your alcohol at all?
There are several reasons, but the most feasible was a marketing ploy that started around the 1950s. This campaign was intended to encourage more people to drink and boost sales. There’s a rumor about an entrepreneur named Jacobo Lozano Paez, who came up with the idea of putting moth larvae inside bottles of Mezcal. He thought that the larvae would impact the liquor’s taste.
Until now, there’s no proof of the larvae altering the Mezcal’s overall flavor in any way.
Many people suggest that tequila worms are just a marketing scheme to get people to empty a tequila bottle to find out if there is indeed a worm at the bottom.
Some brands have also used more than one tequila worm on their products to make sure the Mezcal is easily recognized and stands out from the tequila. And it paid off because, over time, Mezcal established itself as the fancier tequila and is often referred to as the “Mezcal with a worm.”
Then again, the popularity of any drink doesn’t guarantee its quality. Today, most people tend to stay away from Mezcal with a worm, which is only purchased for entertainment purposes. Tequila continues to reign supreme.
Why Is There A Worm In Tequila? Should You Eat It?
As stated earlier, the presence of the worm in the tequila started around the 1950s when one Mexican Mezcal maker, Jacobo Lozano Paez, found a moth larva in one of the Mezcal batches. This prompted him to add the larvae to the Mezcal bottles, believing the moth would change the taste of the alcohol. Although not proven, other manufacturers followed suit and started placing a worm in the tequila.
Now, should you find the tequila worm, what should you do with it?
You can preserve it as a souvenir, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also eat the tequila worm. It’s perfectly safe to consume.
Others who have feasted on the tequila worm claim that it tastes like chicken. You can eat it as is, swallow it without biting into it, or wash it away with the remains of your tequila. Again, there’s no standard way of eating or consuming the tequila worm — to each their own!
And since the worm has been in the bottle for a while now, by the time you reach it, the worm has been soaked, pickled, and absorbed some of the drink flavors. So, it will have some Mezcal flavor to it.
There are also stories about these tequila worms affecting your state of drunkenness or causing hallucinations. But these are all myths and have no truth to them.
So, if you’re not squeamish, you can eat as many tequila worms as you want without dreading any risky aftermath. What you’ll experience will be the effects of the liquor and not the worm.