But the second, far more important reason—there is no worm in the bottom of the tequila bottle. The worm itself is actually a moth larvae called a gusano de maguey—since it feeds off of the maguey plant. And believe it or not, gusano de maguey are eaten, without tequila or any double-dog daring , on the regular in Mexico. Some think the worm in the bottle started as a marketing ploy, to get people to drink more mezcal in the s and s.
By Laura Studarus March 14, The tequila worm has achieved a delicious, low-key ubiquity. In daily life, offering a Japanese elder the worm is considered to be a sign of respect, while eating one in frat houses is considered the ultimate flex. First of all, an important point of clarification. The former is red; the latter is white. First, we have to zoom out. But while tequila is technically mezcal, it can only be brewed from blue agave, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, surrounding the town of Tequila. Plantations that would grow multiple forms of agave since mezcal can be made of multiple strains of the plant would end up with bottles of visually interchangeable light-colored liquid. To limit confusion, jimadores ranchers who harvest the plant by hand using long, sword-like knives would pluck the bugs from dead or dying agave plants and place them in bottles of mezcal. Many little towns around the country, rural people, poor people, they only have lands and part of the belief has been from generation to generation.
I spent a weekend in Mexico City and drank too much mezcal. Through the haze, I remembered that mezcal is not tequila, and that, at the bottom of some bottles, you may find a worm. I started to wonder whether the rumors were true. The worm has all sorts of mystical powers, people told me. It's an aphrodisiac; it has hallucinogenic properties; it will make you drunker. I've learned that people who repeat these things are usually just trying to get someone to eat the worm, and they're lying. But the brilliant marketer who spread the word that mezcal with the worm is different was actually telling a shred of truth, according to science. His pride in the liquor is almost as bright and clear as the drink itself.