The Mystery of the Mezcal Worm
2 weeks ago
Let's start from the beginning...
Why Is Mezcal SO Popular?
The story behind the mystical powers of the worm actually add a lot to its popularity. It is one of the best drinks in 2021, and everyone who enjoys the great taste for the first time doesn't even go through the menu when ordering for drinks again.
It is different from tequila
Many people tend to think that mezcal and tequila are one and the same thing, which is far from the truth. The conspicuous differences between the two brands are:
- The type of of plant: Tequila is only produced from blue agave while mezcal is made from up to 28 varieties of agave.
- The region it comes from: Tequila comes from Jalisco; mezcal traditionally comes from the state of Oaxaca and some parts of Michoacan and Guerrero.
- The production process: Tequila is currently being mass-produced while mezcal is made in small scale through traditional methods.
Mezcal is organic
Mezcal is a transparent liquor that is produced from agave that has been distilled. Before the worm came in as a marketing ploy, mezcal was already fully organic, produced in in-ground pits.
The agave hearts, also known as piñas, are grilled slowly over hot rocks in a pit that is cone-shaped. For 24 hours, the stones lining the pit are heated by fire and the piñas are then put in and covered using moist agave fiber. They are left to cook for two to three days.
Which production process could be more organic than that in 2021?
There's variety to choose from
- Type I: This has a 100% agave base.
- Type II: Contains 80% agave alongside other ingredients such as cane sugar
- White: A clear spirit, aged for two months or less.
- Dorado: Mezcal to which color has been added.
- Reposado: Mezcal that has aged from two to nine months in wooden barrels.
- Añejo: Mezcal that has stayed at least one year. Usually, it's taken up to two to three years.
- Joven: Mezcal that has aged a few months.
Depending on the age, mezcal's flavors range from bitter such as joven to smoky such as añejo.
Producing mezcal takes patience, making it very expensive. A single plant takes up to a decade to mature, and the yield also differs with the plants. This means what you are drinking in 2021 came from plants that were grown in 2010 or earlier. While espadín piña yields up to seven liters of alcohol, tobala piña plant of the same size yields half a liter.
What You Didn't Know About The Mezcal Worm
The Tequila Giant Skipper Moth
The worm isn't actually a worm
Contrary to the stories that most people have believed for ages, the iconic worm isn't actually a worm, it's a larva. The gusano comes from either a butterfly or a moth, and it's an edible caterpillar. The colors are different depending on their origins.
There's the red worm larva that comes from the Hypopta agavis moth or the redtenbacheri. There is also the gusano blanco, which is a white caterpillar that transforms into Aegiale hesperiaris butterfly, also called tequila giant skipper.
If you buy a Mezcal bottle in 2021 that contains a snout weevil, then be sure that your product is cheap. You would only be sure of the real quality if there is red worm or white larvae from the moth staying on the plants.
The worms are part of life for Aztecs and farmers in Mexico
Latin American Insects And Entomology reveals that Aztecs knew about the red worms (chilocuiles) and white ones (meocuili) while collecting sap from the agave.
They later became used as a source of food among the farmers and other natives and are still being used even in 2021.
They even placed a few in mezcal to obtain a special flavor, a culture that was retained for years.
Putting worms in a mezcal bottles isn't an old tradition
Jacobo Lozano Paez was the brains behind the mezcal worm marketing ploy. It began in 1950, the art school student who became a mezcal maker included moth larvae in bottles to distinguish his mezcal brand from others.
This tradition has since been practiced when bottling distilled mezcal as a distinguishing sign
Not all claims about the worm are true
Jacobo Lozano might have initially intended to use the maguey only as a marketing gimmick, but it has since gained an iconic status in the industry.
People say when you eat the worm, you can hallucinate and become more drunk. It is also believed that it contains the powers of an aphrodisiac.
Literally speaking, it only makes you a bit more drunk compared to your mates, considering that it has absorbed a lot of that stuff.
Agave Plant Farmers Fought To Keep The Worm In Mezcal
In 2005, farmers had to fight the Mexican government in order to keep the worms in the mezcal. The government had wanted to increase consumer confidence in their country's signature liquor, and so distillers could not get certification before doing away with maguey worm in future production.
"If there is no worm, there will be no sales," Mezcal Real Minero's Graciela Angeles told San Diego Tribune.
The farmers won the fight to keep the larvae from the plant in their production process in Mexico. They managed to prove that mezcal can be made with the worm without compromising the gusano drink's quality.
So if you are into the gusano, just eat the worm at the bottom without any worries.
Significance of the Worm
Rite of Passage
Even in 2021, it's a Mexican tradition for the maid of honor in a bachelorette party to eat the worm. It symbolizes the future bride passing the baton to her closest loved one.
There's also a famous story that eating the worm has also been a rite of passage for generations of fraternity boys.
If you've been wondering if it's healthy, the answer is yes. The stories you've heard are partly true. As mezcal becomes increasingly popular in 2021, scientists and chemists are finding some validity on the claims regarding the worms.
Antonio De León Rodríguez, is a molecular biologist. Working at the Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. He has published scientific papers on the chemical composition of mezcal. He declares it an organic locally made liquor.
A little shot of your gusano after a good meal can help with digestion and regulation of blood sugars. You can spread the word to your loved ones who are struggling to hit the search button everyday when hunting the internet for information on controlling sugar levels and digestion issues.
Indicator of Alcohol Content
Some mezcal lovers believe that it is an indicator of whether there's enough alcohol content in the drink or not.
If the maguey worm remains preserved, then it is of high quality. On the other hand if it rots, it is a sign that the alcohol content is not enough.
Distinguishes the Brand
Mezcal, is not the same as a bottle of tequila. The worm-in-all-tequila (tequila lollipop) is just a misconception.
If you've ever heard of the legendary tequila worm, then that's just that - a legend. It is a larva of a moth that lives in the agave plant. There are no worms in your tequila bottles.
What you've heard of is tequila's cousin, mezcal. It is huskier and smokier than tequila. Tequila has to contain at least 51% Blue Agave, which doesn't apply to mezcal.
Eat The Worm
The worm is the signature of any mezcal drink. Some premium producers prefer making liquor without it, but most drinkers still opt for the traditional mezcal with worm.
The best way to enjoy mezcal is by sipping it with slices of orange and sal de gusano on the side (This is a mix of crushed worms, dry chili and salt.) Don't for get to share the secret with your loved ones.
Either way, mezcal is generally more expensive than other brands of spirits available in 2021 because of its handmade nature. Next time you go through the menu, check out the drinks page and don't hesitate to taste the edible goodie at the bottom of your bottle of gusano, thanks to Jacobo Lozano. You would definitely add some bottles to your collection and even spread the word if you try eating the worm.
Furthermore, your bottle can come accompanied with a tiny worm-flavored packet of salt . Even for the red type, you only need to hit the submit button to make your order or submit your queries. and you'll have a story to share.