Friday, February 6, 2009

The Red Worm

The Legend:  The worm in the Tequila bottle is hallucinogenic.

Status:  False

  • The worm indicates the alcohol content.
  • The worm is an aphrodisiac.

Mayahuel was the Aztec Goddess of fertility. After a complicated marriage that involved being turned into a tree and eaten by the stars, her remains were buried. The first agave plant grew on her grave. Angry gods struck it down with lightening, creating the fermented sap. The Aztecs named the plant "Metl" in her honor, which is where we get the word "Mezcal."

The story of Mayahuel is an interesting piece of history, the worm is not. Despite what you've been told, the worm is not an ancient Indian tradition, but one started in 1950. The legendary worm is specific to Mezcal. Mezcal is made from distilled sap from the Espadin variety of the agave plant. The agave worm is actually the caterpillar of the Hypopta Agavis moth. It bores into the center of the agave plant. It is virtually impossible to make Mezcal without killing a few worms.

And it turns out you wouldn't want to filter out the worms since they add a distinctive flavor to the liquor. Rather than try to remove them, a whole worm was added to each bottle as a marketing gimmick. The worms are now farm-raised for this specific and peculiar use. They can be red to white in color. The purists prefer the red worm.