Tequila worms are famous, partly because the idea is strange and really kind of gross. Honestly, who in their right mind wants a bug in their booze? You’d probably need a decent amount of tequila before you even considered eating the thing.
Yet, as famous as tequila worms are, there’s a ton of myths and outright lies out there. For one thing, tequila can’t actually contain a worm. Mexican regulations for tequila production prohibit any type of insect from being placed in tequila. The worms are actually found in mezcal instead and often thought to be a marketing ploy to highlight the quality of the spirit.
There’s another critical point too – the insect in mezcal isn’t even a worm at all. It’s a type of larva.
For this post, we’re digging into all there is to know about these so-called tequila worms, including where they come from, why they’re even in mezcal, whether you can eat them, and what effect they have. We’ll also look at other strange things you can find in your alcohol, including scorpions, spiders, snakes, ants, and more.
The Truth About Tequila Worms
Let’s begin by looking more closely at the myth of the tequila worm, starting with the difference between tequila and mezcal.
These two spirits come from Mexico and use agave as their base ingredient. The difference is in the type of agave. Tequila must be made using at least 51% blue weber agave distillate, although many products use 100% blue weber agave instead. In contrast, mezcal can be made using any of more than 200 different agave species.
There are also some production differences between the two spirits. These are partly the result of different levels of industrialization and traditional practices. Regulation plays a role too, as there are more rules focusing on exactly how tequila need to be made.
As a consumer, you might notice that mezcal is typically smokier than tequila. It’s sometimes a bit stronger too.
Perhaps the biggest difference is the variation. There can be dramatic differences between mezcal expressions, while tequila expressions are often more similar to each other. This is partly due to the regulations surrounding tequila production and the fact that it is only made using one type of agave.
Still, to put it simply, tequila is a type of mezcal and only some mezcals are tequilas. So, if you do find a worm in your spirit, you’re drinking a bottle of mezcal rather than tequila.
What Is A Tequila Worm?
So then, worms are only found in mezcal – not tequila. But, that’s just part of the story. It turns out that it isn’t a worm in the spirit at all.
We’re talking about a type of larva instead. This larva comes from two types of moths, which are both found on the agave plant. The moths are also known as maguey worms, which must be where the term tequila worm comes from.
Also, in case you’re worried, the worm isn’t alive.
The larvae in your mezcal is completely edible and won’t cause you any harm at all. Whether you want to eat it is an entirely different question.
People who consume the worm report that it is rubbery and mostly tastes like tequila (which isn’t that surprising, it’s been sitting in tequila for quite a while). Eating it isn’t exactly a pleasant experience, but you might do so as the result of a dare.
Adding worms to mezcal is a bizarre idea. You’d expect that doing so would make the spirit less attractive. So, what’s the insect doing there?
The most common theory is that adding a worm was a marketing ploy, pure and simple. Companies may have hoped the worm would be seen as an indication of quality and make their products more desirable.
In particular, pure mezcal could keep the worm intact, while an inferior product might disintegrate the worm. Whether that’s the case or not doesn’t really matter. Either way, the idea certainly convinced the public. The claim is even still made in some modern mezcal marketing.
The worm may have also been used as a way to make mezcal stand out compared to tequila – making it seem like a more exciting drink. That effect clearly didn’t work, as the worm is associated with tequila rather than mezcal.
What Does The Worm Do To The Mezcal?
There are mixed theories on this question. Many people say that the worm has no effect at all, especially as it’s tiny, while others say it makes a difference. There’s even some research suggesting that the worm changes the chemistry of the mezcal, which could then affect it’s flavor.
Still, even if the worm does change the spirit’s flavor, the effect is likely to be subtle.
There are plenty of myths surrounding the tequila worm, including ideas that it acts as a hallucinogenic or an aphrodisiac. Other theories suggest that the worm will get you drunk instead.
Those claims are all nonsense. Eating the worm doesn’t have any effect at all.
The only time you’ll get a hallucinogen-like effect is if you’ve consumed far too much mezcal. In that case, you’re simply very drunk.
Rumors about the effects of the worms might be just another marketing ploy. They help to make mezcal worms sound much more interesting – increasing the odds that people buy brands with worms.
While the idea of a worm in mezcal is fascinating, the practice isn’t incredibly common. It was never a traditional part of mezcal production either, just a practice that some companies did.
Some mezcal companies continue to include a worm (or worms) in their spirits. However, the worm doesn’t signify quality, as it’s mostly just low quality mezcal expressions that still contain the worm.
You can also look out for the term con gusano on bottles. This means there’s at least one worm in the bottle (possibly more), as guasno roughly means worm in Spanish.
Monte Alban Mezcal With Worm
Monte Alban claims to offer the most popular mezcal in the United States. That’s partly because Monte Alban has a wide distribution network, so their products can be found in many American stores.
Reviews for this expression are fascinating. Some people find that the mezcal has a decent flavor and is excellent for its price. Others state that it is absolutely horrible and should be avoided.
What you think of the expression may be impacted by whether you’ve tried mezcal before. Anyone new to the spirit might enjoy this expression, while experienced connoisseurs are more likely to see the limitations.
Divino Mezcal Reposado with Worms
This expression is fairly difficult to find, but is worth trying if you can lay your hands on it. The mezcal relies on 100% agave and has been aged in oak barrels to give it a complex flavor profile.
As the name suggests, this expression doesn’t just contain one worm. There are two of them, just in case you want to share.
Lajita Mezcal Reposado Agave
This smoky mezcal is another classic that is well worth trying. Each batch of mezcal is triple distilled and then aged for five months in oak casks. It’s an authentic brand that follows traditional methods of mezcal creation.
This time, you just get a single worm in the bottle. Still, one worm is more than enough for most of us. The bottle design is attractive too, which is always a nice touch.
Chacmol Mezcal Reposado
Chacmol Mezcal Reposado is another reposado mezcal, which seems to be the most common style. It isn’t a well-known expression and the distiller doesn’t have much to say about it.
So, we can’t speak to quality at all. Sometimes you just need to take a chance on a spirit and see how it works for you. That’s definitely the case with any products containing the mezcal worm.
Wild Shot Mezcal Reposado
Wild Shot Mezcal Reposado is a little stronger than most mezcals, coming in at 43.4%. The expression was actually developed by Toby Keith, the country singer. Wild Shot even uses “blame it on the worm” as their slogan, so the inclusion of the worm shouldn’t be surprising.
There is one odd thing – the marketing sometimes says that the mezcal is made from green agave or agave Verde. That’s misleading, as it relies on agave Salmina instead.
El Recuerdo Mezcal
This mezcal is often recommended, partly because it has a decent flavor and is reasonably priced. As such, this is an easy and tasty way to try the mezcal worm for yourself.
The flavor profile includes plenty of smoky notes, plus some sweetness in the form of sugar and caramel flavors. This mezcal can be purchased with or without the worm. Why not try it both ways and see which style you prefer?
A particularly interesting version is the pictured 5KO limited edition. This stands out because it is the only mezcal that includes five worms. Most others have one or perhaps two.
Adding larvae to mezcal isn’t as unusual as it sounds. A surprising number of other spirits use insects and other creatures – including cobra whiskey, scorpion vodka, and much more. The products below are some of the most well-known examples of this style. However, there are other options out there too, including some locally produced spirits.
Vodka is the perfect spirit for adding creatures, as you get to see everything clearly. Vodka is also flavorless, so even subtle flavors can make a big difference.
The pictured product comes from Thailand Unique. This brand offers a surprising number of insects and creatures in vodka. You’ll see some more of these shortly.
Amazingly, the scorpion in this bottle is completely edible. Just be careful of the stinger if you do choose to eat it, otherwise you might have a painful experience.
As amazing as it seems, there’s also a Skorppio Vodka product. This is marketed as a premium vodka expression, one that has been through five distillation steps.
The scorpions were farm raised and are completely free of pesticides. Their venom was removed before inclusion in the vodka, so they’re completely safe to eat.
Scorpions are surprisingly popular. They even make their way into mezcal, like with this Scorpion Reposado Mezcal. This time we’re just talking about a tiny scorpion that would be easier to eat.
The mezcal itself is produced in small batches with a focus on quality. There is even an engaging complexity to the flavor profile, making this product even tastier.
We’re back to vodka. This Centipede Vodka is another expression from Thailand Unique. Somehow the centipede looks even more disturbing than the scorpion from earlier.
I don’t know. Would you eat a centipede, even if it has been soaking in vodka for months? I’m not sure I would. Thailand Unique doesn’t mention whether the centipede is edible, but they denature the venom in the scorpion, so it should be safe.
Giant Centipede Whiskey
Despite the appearance, this isn’t vodka with a giant centipede. It’s actually white whiskey instead. White whiskey isn’t common, particularly not in a commercial product. Still, it’s worth trying, as the impurities in the whiskey create some exciting flavor notes that aren’t found in regular whiskey.
Whiskey aside, look at that centipede. It’s pretty freaky. If nothing else, this makes an unforgettable gift.
Cobra whiskey is slightly different from the previous entries, as it isn’t even that unusual. The drink is often sold in Thailand and Laos, typically with an actual cobra, plus seed pods and ginseng roots. The spices provide extra flavor, while the cobra makes the bottle look incredibly distinctive.
It’s no wonder that tourists keep bringing these bottles back home. The whiskey can be made in various ways, which include using different combinations of spices. Some versions use rice wine as the base spirit, despite the product being called cobra whiskey.
Let’s also talk about the snake itself for a minute. The snake is often alive when it’s added to the whiskey. Somehow that makes the whole thing worse.
People who have tried cobra whiskey say that it truly is an experience. The snake ferments in the bottle for a few months, giving the whiskey a very unique flavor in the process.
Some versions of this recipe use other types of snakes, rather than cobras. Such versions don’t look quite as impressive, but they have a similar flavor profile.
Cobra And Scorpion Whiskey
This product from Thailand Unique ups the ante by including a scorpion and a cobra in the same bottle. It looks impressive and terrifying at the same time. The product includes the seed pods and ginseng roots that we mentioned before, creating a similar flavor profile.
You can probably find similar products from other companies and in Thailand. Honestly, there’s an almost endless collection of different animals in alcohol sold from stalls. You never know what you’ll find.
Also, both this and regular cobra whiskey are thought to help with pain and act as an aphrodisiac. Whether these benefits are true or not is anyone’s guess.
Here’s another disturbing addition to your vodka – a whole tarantula. There aren’t any herbs or spices present here, just vodka and the spider.
The vodka could still offer health benefits. All of the spirits on this list could actually, as you are getting some compounds from the animal. Still, don’t expect miracles. The animals are normally just there for novelty.
Worms In Vodka
What’s there to say, really? You’re drinking vodka infused with worms, which is odd. Still, the style isn’t as disturbing as a tarantula or a rearing cobra. Somehow, worms seem benign after those examples.
Longhorn Asian Beetle Vodka
Finally, we have this Longhorn Vodka Infusion. It’s a tiny bottle with a large beetle and some vodka. It would look pretty cool on the edge of a bar or even on your coffee table.
Well, finally probably isn’t the right word. There are almost certainly other similar products out there. The vodka versions are great as novelty gifts, while the other spirits, like mezcal and whiskey, should have a more interesting flavor profile.
Want to get even more extreme? Some companies have taken things to the next level, where the insect is part of the alcohol itself. Here are a few examples.
The only thing more surprising than ant-infused gin is the fact that there are multiple such products. Angry Ant Gin is one of these. It’s an Australian product that relies on the Australian Shiraz grape and was inspired by the flora and fauna found in the Australian outback – including ants.
Yes, ants are one of the botanical ingredients used to flavor the gin. The idea is a bold one, yet it seems to work. Thankfully, ants are just one of many ingredients, so they don’t dominate the flavor profile.
Then there’s Anty Gin, which includes the essence of 62 wood ants, plus wild botanicals like nettle and wood avens. Or, what about Green Ant Gin? This is a second Australian product. This one really lives up to its name, as it uses green ants as one of the ingredients.
Giant Hornet Shouchu
You might not be able to buy this product, but you can make it yourself. Well… you could if you managed to find giant hornets.
The drink is odd in many ways. To make it, live giant hornets actually need to be drowned in a clear spirit called shochu. Leaving them alive is essential (unfortunately), as they release venom as they struggle for life.
Then, the liquid is left to ferment for three years. This means you’re waiting a long time for your alcohol. Whether the alcohol is worth the effort is highly debatable, but that’s true for all the items on this list.
Cricket Dark Ale
Here’s another odd product. It’s literally beer made using crickets. These are roasted and then brewed along with malt to make the beer.
The beer is a low pressure way to try insects. It’s certainly much easier than trying to eat roast crickets on their own.
Beer And Insect Tastings
Speaking of eating insects, some people serve beer with insects as part of a tasting. Somehow the flavors go together much better than you’d expect.
The alcohol also makes it easier to actually eat insects. Doing so in a social setting could help as well. What do you think? Would you give it a go?