Chances are you’ve probably heard about the “worm” at the bottom of the tequila bottle, but if you’ve ever seen this critter with your own eyes, chances are you weren’t drinking tequila but rather a lower quality mezcal alcohol. Regardless of where it is found, we can’t help but wonder why anyone would put a worm in a bottle of booze, and more importantly, is it dangerous to drink?

Traditionally, the worm is actually a fly larvae called the gusan and the tequila bottle is technically a drink called mezcal, Delish reported. Mezcal is a group of alcoholic beverages made by distilling the agave plant, but where mezcal can be made from a blend of one of 250 types of cactuses, in order to be a tequila drink, it must be at least 51 percent blue agave, Delish reported. In other words, mezcal is not tequila but tequila is technically a type of mezcal. However, as Heriberto Oviedo, the tequilier (like a sommelier for tequila) at the Cantina Beach restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne, FL told Delish, “The worm is never found in tequila.

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Okay, now that we know where the worm is found, how about we figure why it’s there in the first place. According to The Huffington Post, the gusano is the larvae of a moth that lives on the agave plant. According to VinePair, the first person to put a gusano in a bottle of mezcal was a former art student-turned-mezcal entrepreneur named Jacobo Lozano Paez during the 1940s/1950s. The legend has it that Lozano Paez accidentally had a worm in his mezcal, but noted that it changed the taste of his drink, for the better. He began to add the worm to his drinks and the trend caught on.

However, in keeping with the history of legends, this story may be false, as Vine Pair also reported that the worm in the mezcal could have simply been started by Americans as a marketing ploy as simply a way to tell Tequila apart from other mezcals. According to Tequila Source, American salesmen put the worm in the mezcal to make the drink more mysterious and therefore boost alcohol sales.

We know where to find the worm, and perhaps why it’s in your drink, but is it safe to eat? According to Tequila Source, yes. The worm is well cooked and pickled in alcohol for about a year, so it’s not the same as just picking a worm off the ground outside. Not that this would make the worm any less eatable. In fact, the worm is enjoyed as a delicacy in Mexico and can even be found on some restaurant menus. In addition, the worm would have derived from a tree only used for mezcal/tequila making, which means that it's free of pesticides.

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