I curse the worm! Well, OK, that may be a bit dramatic, but I am definitely not a fan of the worm. The only good place for a worm is in the mouth of a fish.The worm I am going to talk about today is more correctly referred to as a larvae (a gusano in Spanish), and can be frequently found in the bottom of a bottle of mostly BAD mezcal. There are two types of maguey worms that infest (that’s right, infest) agave plants: white maguey worms and red maguey worms.
The white maguey worms, known as meocuiles, are caterpillars of a butterfly. The butterflies deposit their eggs at the heart of the leaves of the agave. The larvae then eat the flesh of the agave stems and roots, sometimes boring out the agave completely.
The red maguey worms are known as chilocuiles, chinicuiles or tecoles, and are the larvae of a moth. These infest the core and roots of the maguey plant, often in a glutenous mass. Who wouldn’t want to eat a glutenous mass?? Let’s celebrate these majestic creatures by putting them in the fine spirit known as mezcal! (more…)
In Mexico, mezcal is uniquely tied to the history and the culture. It is spiritual, romantic, mystical, traditional, and revered. It is served at births, weddings, funerals and everything in between.
In the U.S., mezcal is largely misunderstood, though we are trying to change that. In my youth (the bar-hopping good times of the late ’80’s) there was a bar in NYC called Lucy’s on the Upper West Side. It was a packed, raucous, meat-market (so I was told) that was always a scene. If you wanted a Lucy’s T-shirt though, you had to down a small bottle of mezcal that had a worm in it (I will get to the worm later). And this mezcal was DISGUSTING – the retching, burning, gag-inducing crap that you would only do when already well on your way, and your buddies were egging you on.
Unfortunately, most people, if they have any impression of mezcal at all, think of that nasty stuff with the worm. While you can still find this junk, today’s mezcals are nothing like that, and that’s what this blog is all about. As Eric Asimov, Food & Wine writer for the NY Times, said in 2010:
“Mezcal is one of the world’s great spirits: complex, gorgeous and endlessly intriguing, distinguished like great wines by a strong sense of place.”
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Let’s review the basics of Mezcal (just the facts ma’am): (more…)