A sea salt rim on a margarita glass is a ubiquitous site in American bars, but in Mexico, a different kind of salt comes into play when drinking agave spirits, specifically sal de gusano, or worm salt. “The consumption of insects, mezcal and worm salt dates back to before the arrival of Europeans into Mexico,” says Merci Mercado founder Virydiana Velarde. “The worm salt is an indispensable ingredient in Southern Mexico’s cuisine, and for hundreds of years it has been a tradition to drink mezcal [accompanied] with worm salt and often with fruits like orange slices.”
Recipes vary by region and community, often passed down through generations of families, but most agave worm salts share certain ingredients: dried and crushed agave worms (sometimes grasshoppers, or chapulínes), salt, dried chile peppers and occasionally other ingredients like dried hibiscus leaves or citrus zest. “The wide range of flavors in the worm salt opens the palate and balances out the smoky flavor of mezcal and the citric punch of the orange juice. Both the mezcal and the worm salt are made from ingredients of the agave plant, so they just go great together,” Velarde adds.
Many modern worm salts can be found in bars that specialize in Mexican spirits, but you can also occasionally find them in liquor stores, specialty cocktail stores and online.
Merci Mercado For the most adventurous, Merci Mercado offers whole dried grasshoppers and agave worms in addition to blended salts. The tiny, crispy snacks come in plan, chipotle-dusted and adobo-flavored versions. The agave worm salt has a medium grain size and a big burst of heat that lingers on the palate. That added heat makes the salt a great option for adding a little spice to the rim of a Margarita or Paloma. Price varies, mercimercado.com