You know that legendary tequila worm that’s at the bottom of the bottle? It’s just that—a legend. There are no worms in tequila bottles. If you want to find this mystifying grub, you have to look at the bottom of a bottle of mezcal—preferably a cheap one.
What’s the difference?
Tequila and mezcal are not the same thing. They’re produced differently. What’s more, tequila is made exclusively from blue agave, while mezcal is made from any variety of the agave plant. Plus, true tequila is produced exclusively in five regions of Mexico: Michoacan, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas and Jalisco (where the town of Tequila is located).
Mezcal, on the other hand, is produced in nine areas of Mexico: Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Michoacan, Puebla and Oaxaca.
And another thing…
You may want a cocktail after hearing this other piece of bad news. The worm is not even a worm. It is the larva of a type of moth that lives on the agave plant.
So, why is there a worm in mezcal?
Larvae began appearing in mezcal bottles in the 1950s, when a mezcal maker discovered a moth larvae in a batch of his liquor and thought the stowaway improved its taste. He started adding “worms” to all his bottles as a marketing strategy. Soon, other mezcal manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon.
What happens to your body when you swallow the “tequila worm”?
Finally, as long as we’re busting myths, here’s another one: Does eating the worm cause hallucinations? Nope. If you start seeing things after eating the worm, it probably has more to do with the mezcal you had to drink than the actual larva.
Some people who have eaten a mezcal worm say it tastes like chicken. Luckily, there are other ways to enjoy that experience—try one of our recipes that actually use chicken! And if you’re feeding a crowd, be sure to make a big batch of margaritas, too.