It's funny how untruths are just truths that veered off the path at some point. Tequila suffers from more than its fair share of these vagaries. Take the fallacy that some tequila bottles contain a worm, for example. In fact, no tequila bottle contains a worm of any kind. The truth is that there's a butterfly larva, called a gusano in Spanish, that infests some of the varieties of agave used to make mezcal, a close relative of tequila. (Tequila is made from a different variety of agave.) These harmless little critters - known as Hipopta agavis in scientific circles - are actually quite nutritious and are eaten fried as a snack or ground up into a condiment in Mexico.
Somewhere along the way, someone decided to put these "worms" into mezcal bottles. Although some have theorized that the gusano was actually a test of the mezcal's alcohol content (if the larva rotted, the mezcal was too weak), it was most likely just a marketing gimmick. Some mezcals still contain a gusano. Tequilas do not, although some tequila brands misleadingly insist on using the gusano as a symbol.
Another fallacy is that tequila is made from cactus. No way, amigo! The agave plant is actually a member of the lily family, although some species do have sharp, cactuslike spines. This is not the most pernicious of lies, but it's a fallacy nonetheless.
CHINACO REPOSADO ($36)
In the late 1960s, Guillermo Gonzalez, head of Mexico's Department of Agriculture and an ardent agrarian reformer, fought to have the official area of tequila production enlarged to include his home state of Tamaulipas. It took years, but in 1977 he prevailed. The NORMA (the set of government tequila regulations) was revised and local farmers planted acres of agave. Once the crops grew large enough to harvest, however, the large tequila manufacturers in Jalisco balked at purchasing them. Defiantly, Gonzalez decided to found his own distillery in Tamaulipas.