Tequila, the iconic Mexican spirit, has long been associated with an unusual and somewhat mysterious tradition: the presence of a worm inside the bottle.
But why the worm in tequila? Is it true that it enhances the flavour, or is it merely a marketing gimmick?
In this blog article, we’ll unravel the truth behind this intriguing practice, explore its origins, and delve into the role that the worm plays in the tequila experience.
History and Origins of the Worm in Tequila
The practice of putting a worm inside a bottle of tequila can be traced back to the mid-20th century. However, it’s essential to clarify that the worm is not typically found in tequila but in mezcal, a close cousin of tequila.
Both spirits are distilled from the agave plant, but tequila specifically uses the blue agave variety, while mezcal can be made from various agave species.
The worm, or “gusano” in Spanish, is actually the larva of the Hypopta agavis moth, which lays its eggs inside the agave plant. When the agave is harvested and cooked, the larvae can sometimes be found inside the plant.
The presence of the worm in mezcal bottles is believed to have originated as a marketing tactic to differentiate the product from tequila, which was gaining popularity during the 1950s.
The Worm’s Effect on Flavour
Some people believe that the worm enhances the flavor and potency of the mezcal, but this idea is largely a myth. In reality, the worm itself does not significantly alter the taste of the spirit.
However, the worm can impart a subtle, earthy flavour to the mezcal, especially if it has been in the bottle for an extended period.
Drinking mezcal or tequila with a worm is more about the experience and the cultural mystique surrounding the practice. Some people might enjoy the novelty of consuming a spirit with a worm in it, while others view it as a rite of passage or a symbol of bravery.
In any case, the worm has undoubtedly contributed to the allure and fascination surrounding mezcal and tequila.
Is the Worm Safe to Consume?
The worm found in mezcal is entirely safe to consume. It is cooked and preserved in alcohol, making it free of any harmful bacteria or parasites. Some people even claim that the worm has aphrodisiac or hallucinogenic properties, but these claims are unfounded.
Consuming the worm is more a matter of personal preference and is not required to enjoy the spirit.
Legality and Regulations
Due to the misconception that the worm is commonly found in tequila, many people are surprised to learn that its presence is actually prohibited in tequila bottles by Mexican law.
Tequila is regulated by the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT), which enforces strict production standards, including the prohibition of adding foreign substances like the worm.
Mezcal, on the other hand, is subject to less stringent regulations, allowing the tradition of the worm to continue in some brands. However, not all mezcal bottles contain a worm, and many high-quality mezcals do not include one, as they prefer to focus on the spirit’s flavour and complexity.
In conclusion, the worm in tequila (or rather, mezcal) is a fascinating aspect of Mexican culture and the history of these beloved spirits. Although the worm may not significantly enhance the flavour or potency of the spirit, it remains a symbol of adventure and curiosity.
The next time you enjoy a glass of mezcal or tequila, remember the unique history behind the worm and raise a toast to the rich traditions that have shaped these iconic beverages.