What’s The Real Story Behind the Worm in the Tequila Bottle?

Why is it there, and what happens when you EAT THE WORM?

Bill Broadbent

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Photo: © Marcos | Adobe Stock

Jackson was a world traveler and considered herself open to any adventure. But, tonight, she was put on the spot. For an extra $5, her tequila shot would include “the Worm.” “El Maguey.”

She had heard that the worm was psychedelic, but she was highly skeptical. The real problem was that… it was a worm. Can she get up the gumption to eat a worm? Her friends were sure she could. “Jackson, Jackson, Jackson,” they chanted as she looked at the red Chinicuil worm. Following in the tradition of so many college kids before her, she took the shot and swallowed the worm in one gulp. ¡HUZZAH!

Photo: © Niciak | Adobe Stock

Chinicuil worms are actually caterpillars. They are the larvae of the Comadia redtenbacheri moth in the family Cossidae. The larvae are found in the same Agave plants used to make Tequila and Mezcal.

Although “The Worm” is commonly thought of being in Tequila here in the states, it’s traditionally found in Mezcal.

And, that tradition is not a tradition at all. It’s more of a gimmick than a tradition. In fact, Mezcal, with the worm in it, is considered a sign of poor quality mezcal. A quality Mezcal needs no gimmicks. The same is true of Tequila.

So… How Did the Worm Get into the Bottle? And Why is it There?

It seems no one knows. There are many stories on who first began marketing Tequila with the worm in it. One thing they all have in common is that it was purely a marketing ploy.

One story is that the marketing angle was first envisioned and put to use by an employee of the company Nacional Vinicola named Jacobo Lozano Páez. Other stories claim that it was originally by accident, and when mezcal and tequila producers saw the reaction created, they realized that it could be of value in marketing.

No doubt, it was good marketing since we all know about “the worm.”

Today, in Mexico, it is illegal to add the worm to a commercial bottle of Tequila.

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Bill Broadbent

Bill is President of Entosense and has been actively involved in the emerging edible insect industry since 2014. Visit: Entosense.com & EdibleInsects.com