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Can You Eat the Tequila Worm? Answered (2022 Updated)

Last Updated on November 24, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Some may have seen it personally while others have heard, but there are mezcal bottles that contain tequila worms. And with all the rumors and theories about a tequila worm, one thing is for sure: it started as a marketing ploy in the 1940s. 

Now, the million-dollar question is – can you eat the tequila worm? Scroll down to find out what we have discovered.

Are Tequila Worms Edible? 

Tequila Bottle

Yes, tequila worms inside the bottle of mezcal are edible. Eating it may be gross, especially if you are not into exotic foods but did you know that if you eat the worm, you are also partaking in a pre-Hispanic tradition? 

Whether it is purely a marketing angle aimed at Americans or not, the last shot of mezcal with worms is safe to consume.

The maguey worms came from the maguey plant, one of the agave plants used to make the spirit. 

What Are Tequila Worms?

Tequila worms are actually mezcal worms. The mezcal worm is moth larvae called gusano de maguey, and you can find them in the agave plant.  

There are two types of gusano. The first one is a larva of the beetle Scyphophorus Acupunctatus – it’s a white larva [2].

The other one is a larva of the moth Comadia Redtenbacheri- it’s a red worm from the Cossidae family of moths. 

What Do They Taste Like?

Tequila with wormTequila worms taste like mezcal because they have been pickled in alcoholic beverages for a long period. 

Some people claim it tastes like chicken, but when we tried eating the worm, it had a flavor similar to almonds. Also, it is not crunchy but chewy in texture. 

Nowadays, many people love to pour worm salt (toasted and grounded worm with salt and chilis) or gusano with chili powder in orange, then consume it. 

Is It Safe To Eat Them?

Yes, it is safe to eat the worm. 

What happens when you eat the maguey worm? Nothing. 

There are no proven side effects associated with consuming the larvae, so you can be confident in consuming them.

In some cultures, especially in Mexico, consuming insects are acceptable and part of their pre-Hispanic culture.  

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How Do You Eat It?

To consume a tequila worm, you have to take a shot of the alcoholic beverage with the worm, and you can either swallow it whole or munch it.

If you are curious about the flavor and its texture, you are free to chew the worm.

What’s The Purpose of Tequila Worms? 

worm in a glass

According to research, the main purpose of tequila worms was for a marketing strategy. When mezcals started in America, distilleries had already established tequila production, and mezcals were seen as a lower agave spirit. 

The worms were added to make the people believe that mezcal is a superior drink.

This marketing gimmick made people drink more mezcal, especially in the 1940s and 1950s. 

There are three other theories why distilleries placed the insect inside the bottle of alcohol:

  1. Jacobo Lozano Páez, a distiller in the 1940s, says it changes the flavor of the booze;
  2. It brings strength and good fortune; and
  3. The alcohol is very strong. 

What Tequilas Have Worms? 

There are no tequilas that have worms. Contrary to popular belief, mezcal, not tequila, contains worms. 

Let’s be clear: All tequilas are mezcal, but not all mezcals are tequilas [1], and only mezcals have worms. 

A bottle of tequila can be considered a mezcal since it is made from agave (agave tequilana).

Both tequila and mezcal can be made in agave, but 100% blue agave plant is used for the tequila drink. 

Are These Hallucinogenic? 

worms

No, the worms are not hallucinogenic. If you have eaten the insect and hallucinated, the credit goes to the amount of mezcals you consumed. 

Moreso, the insects, are free of pesticides and other chemicals, so it is not medically proven to cause hallucinations.   

FAQs 

When did they stop putting worms in tequila?

It was the year 1977 when distilleries stopped putting worms in tequila because the spirit was granted protected status. However, there are some lower-ended mezcal spirits with worms that you can still find.  

Will tequila worms make you drunk?

No, tequila worms will not get you drunk. Even if the worms are soaked in alcohol, it is not enough to make you intoxicated. If you take a shot with the worm, you can get intoxicated, but that is because of the shot and not the worms from the bottle. 

In Summary 

Yes, it is totally fine to consume the tequila worm. The worm is edible, safe to consume, and will not cause any harm to your health. 

There are different theories on why gusano is placed inside the tequila bottle, but it is clear that alterations in the flavor and magical powers are just glorified name tags.

The real story revolves around the marketing plan and the different identities of mezcals. 

References: 

  1. https://www.foodandwine.com/cocktails-spirits/differences-between-tequila-mezcal
  2. https://bioone.org/journals/florida-entomologist/volume-102/issue-1/024.102.0101/Scyphophorus-acupunctatus-Coleoptera–Dryophthoridae–A-Weevil-Threatening-the/10.1653/024.102.0101.full

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