Mexican Inspectors Seize Mezcal Containing Wild Snakes

It probably wasn’t all that tasty anyway.

By Ethan L. Johns
March 14, 2018

Image: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s a spirit known, not always correctly, for the “worm” resting at the bottom of the bottle. Technically, the Maguey worm in mezcal con gusano is not a worm at all. But that’s beside the point, because the once-living creatures found in some bottles of mezcal at a market in Mexico this week were a whole lot larger than those little larvae.

According to the Associated Press, Mexican environmental inspectors cracked down on vendors at a Oaxacan market this week, after they found bottles of Mezcal containing preserved snakes and iguanas. The wild animals inside the 15 confiscated bottles were topped off with “artisanal, wild agave,” but since the trade of wild animals is tightly controlled, selling them was out of the question.

Mezcal is a Mexican liquor made from fermented and distilled agave. While tequila is a spirit made uniquely from the distillation of blue agave, mezcal can be made from several different varieties of agave. In order to ferment mezcal, the agave must first be roasted in the ground before being ground with stone. The roasting process gives most mezcals a smoky flavor, which can be comparable to that of single malt Scotches. While many believe the “worm” in bottles of mezcal has psychotropic properties, it was really just added to crappy mezcals as a marketing ploy, and to mask chemical flavors, according to Serious Eats.

The addition of snakes to wine is a practice that can also be found in parts of Southeast Asia. Traditional Chinese medicine dictates, according to the BBC, that snake venom, when left to hang out in alcohol, can be a cure for everything from hair loss to back pain to virility issues (naturally).

One problem with putting wildly dangerous creatures in a jar? When you open it, that creature might just get its revenge. In 2013, a woman in China’s Heilongjiang Province opened a bottle of viper wine, only to have the snake jump out and bite her on the finger. The snake had been hibernating in the alcohol for three months.

This all leads to the most obvious question: who would be drinking this stuff, anyway? This is ‘round-about spring break time for most American colleges and universities. But we’re not pointing any fingers…

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns