On the Border restaurant offers celebration tips for Cinco de Mayo
4/29/2016, 6:30 p.m. | Updated on 5/3/2016, 1:24 p.m.
Before you drink the worm
We’ve all heard about or seen the popular “worm” inside what someone claims is a bottle of tequila. Some of us may have even taken on the dare to drink that worm as part of finishing a bottle. If you’re one of the latter – congratulations, you’ve just become a connoisseur of mescal, tequila’s sneaky little cousin. Why the confusion? It started when tequila and mescal first began entering the United States. People didn’t necessarily appreciate the difference between the two, and the idea that the two liquors were the same became a popularly held belief. In truth, however, the two are quite different in terms of composition and flavor, and only mescal has ever included a “worm.”
The fundamental difference is that tequila is made 100% from only blue agave plants – whereas mescal can come from any variety of agave, and often several varieties mixed together. Since blue agave can take about 8 years to mature, faster-growing varieties offered a quicker, less expensive way to create a spirit – and thus mescal was born. And though the “worm” was really just a marketing ploy, it does have some authenticity in the fact that it’s the larvae of a type of butterfly common around agave plants.
It’s not often today that you’ll find mescal served in establishments with a strong tequila following. On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina, for example, specializes in over X brands of tequila, without a single mescal on the menu. But for those traveling south of the border for Cinco de Mayo or other celebrations, you may just see a worm in a bottle sitting on the shelf. That’s your quick clue to order only from a bottle that says 100% blue agave and skip the insect larvae.