You may have heard an “expert” friend talk about how truly authentic tequila has a worm floating at the bottom of the bottle. Or maybe you’ve spotted a dusty bottle of Monte Alban (a mezcal that infamously contains said worm) at a dive where patrons joke about downing the worm as a test of machismo. But before you get duped by any of the myths surrounding this seemingly traditional practice, let’s set a few things straight, starting with why there’s a worm in tequila bottles: There isn’t.
You won’t find any insects floating in any bottle of tequila (unless they’ve been invaded by thirsty critters while you weren’t looking), but rather in tequila’s sibling agave spirit, mezcal. And the so-called “worm” isn’t a worm at all, but rather a moth larva. The species, gusano de maguey, actually calls the agave plant home before it transforms into a moth.