Mezcal with a Worm: Why?

Mezcal is a renowned Mexican spirit that has gained international acclaim for its unique flavor profile and for its cultural significance and traditional making process.

But one of the peculiarities associated with this drink it’s still a surprise for some, and that is the presence of a worm inside of some bottles.

In this post we will answer why it is there and answer the mystery behind this unusual tradition.

What ‘s the Worm in Mezcal?  Maguey worm or “Gusano de Maguey”

The worm found in Mezcal bottles is known as the Maguey worm, also referred to as “Gusano de maguey” gets his name because it feeds off of the maguey plant.

Mezcal Maguey Worm in Mexico’s Culture

In Mexican culture, worms are not the only insect that is consumed. 

A typical Mexican food is called Chapulines, which are a species of grasshopper. They tend to be sold by street vendors as a snack. 

Another insect that was part of the ancient Mexican diet is the Escamoles. It consists of a dish made from the larvae of a particular ant species. 

Although traditionally it was a part of an everyday diet in Mexico, nowadays they are harder to come by and that’s why they are considered a delicacy.

Another dish, the Hormigas Chicatanas (Atta Ants), is mostly consumed in the summer. These ants are removed from their extremities and later toasted to be consumed.

Lastly, Jumiles on the other hand are flying green insects that were collected in the pre-columbian times mostly for the Day of the Dead festivities. 

Chapulines: a species of grasshopper. They tend to be sold by street vendors in Mexico

Mezcal Maguey Worm Salt

Sal de Gusano (Worm Salt) is another traditional dish made with gusano de maguey.

This traditional Oaxacan spice is made with sea salt, toasted and grounded Maguey worms and a variety of dried chiles. 

It is commonly used to accompany your Tequila, Mezcal, Micheladas, fruits and salads or in other signature dishes from Mexico like soups.

Maguey Worm Salt: made with sea salt, toasted and grounded Maguey worms and a variety of dried chiles

But why is there a worm in Mezcal?

The presence of a worm in Mezcal has long been considered a marketing strategy to captivate curious consumers and to give Mezcal popularity between the American consumers.

It is said that the worm was added to the Mezcal around the 1950s by an entrepreneur named Jacobo Lozano Paez.

Although, if we check the the Normas Oficiales Mexicanas (the Mexican Standards authority) we can read that there’s a type of Mezcal, the “Mezcal Abocado con” that in order to produce this type of Mezcal the mezcalero has the possibility to add different ingredients, one of them being a “gusano de maguey”.

Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol with a Worm Inside the Bottle?

The presence of a worm inside a bottle of Mezcal or other spirits is generally safe for consumption. 

The worms are typically preserved in high-proof alcohol, which acts as a preservative and ensures they are no longer alive. 

However, it’s essential to note that the worm is often included more as a novelty or cultural tradition than as a culinary delicacy. 

Some people may choose to eat it, while others may prefer to leave it untouched.

Is the Worm Dead or Alive When They Put It Inside the Mezcal?

The preservation process mentioned above ensures that the worm remains intact and is safe for consumption when the bottle is opened.