Worm Salt for Mezcal: Everything You Need to Know
3 weeks ago
Many genuine mezcal enthusiasts know that the worm you sometimes see at the bottom of a bottle is typically just a marketing gimmick to draw attention to cheaper brands. However, that doesn’t mean that bugs can’t enhance mezcal at all. In fact, insects have played a role in traditional mezcal culture for a long time.
They’ve specifically done so in the form of worm salt for mezcal. This guide will explain what worm salt is, where it comes from, and how it’s used.
What is Worm Salt for Mezcal?
Like tequila, mezcal comes from the agave plant. Moth larvae live inside agave plants.
(Despite the common misconception, the “worm” at the bottom of some mezcal bottles isn’t actually a worm. Neither is the “worm” used to make worm salt.)
For quite a long time in Mexico, it hasn’t been uncommon for people to eat these larvae in a variety of preparations. One of the most popular involves heating the larvae up and mixing them with rock salt and dried chile peppers. The result is sal de gusano, the traditional name of worm salt for mezcal.
A Meal of Necessity
Here’s a bit of trivia that might be of interest to a mezcal fan. Although eating certain insects has never been as strange in Mexico as people from other parts of the world might consider it, some believe people started eating the moth larvae in agave plants for a very particular reason.
These larvae are pests. If left alone, they’ll grow and eat away at the agave plant. Thus, when Aztecs first started harvesting the agave plant, they needed a way to dispose of the larvae. Eating them simply turned out to be the most convenient option. The Aztecs apparently loved the taste of the larvae, and the tradition of consuming them was born.
How to Use Worm Salt for Mezcal
Mezcal purists usually don’t rim their mezcal glasses with worm salt. Most traditional mezcal glasses are two small for this to be the ideal option. Of course, if you ever feel the need to take a break from mezcal and opt for a margarita instead, you can certainly rim your margarita glass with worm salt!
However, when consuming worm salt with mezcal, it’s tradition to serve worm salt on top of orange slices. Others may prefer to top apple or pineapple slices with worm salt. Regardless, enjoying worm salt this way between sips of mezcal complements the flavor of the beverage without masking it. That said, because there are many different recipes for worm salt, no two taste precisely alike. You may want to try a few different brands and recipes to find one that perfectly matches your tastes.
Keep in mind that you can also use worm salt even when you’re not drinking mezcal. It tends to have an umami quality that’s ideal for salsas, soups, ceviche, and numerous other dishes. If you enjoy cooking, you’ll almost certainly have fun experimenting with worm salt in the kitchen.
Worm Salt: A Mezcal Tradition
While the worm at the bottom of the bottle may not actually be an authentic part of mezcal culture, worm salt for mezcal certainly is. Any mezcal fan owes it to themselves to try it. Just be warned, once you do, you might never want to drink mezcal without worm salt again.