It may seem that kosher salt or sugar are the best types of rims for the beloved margarita, but they’re not the most authentic. In Mexico, sippers use bug salt to liven up their libations, especially those made with mezcal. The most common of these salts is made from larva which is found amongst agave plants.
“The salt of ‘chinicuil’ or worm salt, is one of the products that distinguishes Mexico from the rest of the world. Only in Mexico can we find a product like this, an original pre-Hispanic recipe and 100 percent Oaxacan. It is a product with a unique flavor that enhances the flavor of food and gives it a unique aromatic depth,” says Eduardo Quiroga, chief sommelier at Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Riveria Maya, Mexico.
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Sea salt, chiles, and toasted ground chinicuil.
There are two types of larvae that you can find in agave—red worm and white worm, explains Quiroga. The red worms live in the root and heart of the agave plant while the white larvae are in the leaves.
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The red worm larvae add a load of essences of the maguey (agave) plant and help bring the spirit a layer of sweetness and fat that makes it intrusive when tasting a vintage mezcal. According to Quiroga, the white larvae have a more significant contribution of minerality and subtle aromas of fresh grass.
“The ancestral tradition and the consideration of these ingredients as part of a festive and religious meal makes this authentic,” he says. “Experiencing these insects in an appropriate way allows us to enter a fascinating and mystical world, the complexity of sensations, and to live with a part of what was a Mexico unknown to the world and now offered as it is in a rainbow of exquisite flavors.”
While Quiroga says that the worm larvae salt is preferred and the most widely used, he said that other types of insects are also used to create salts that are spread atop fruits, as well as used in the creation of elaborate dishes.
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“Grasshoppers and Chicata ants are the most precious, although there are some more exotic ingredients such as the alacrán [scorpion] and the rattlesnake,” he says.
So try it with your next round of tequila or mezcal, or for rimming your Cinco de Mayo margarita!
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