One of the two grandfathers of mezcal, Gusano Rojo was created by Jacobo Lozano Páez in 1950, five years after Mezcal Monte Alban pioneered the mezcal industry. Gusano Rojo (“red worm”) was the first mezcal with a worm at the bottom of each bottle. This was not based on Mexican tradition, but was simply a marketing technique that paid off very well – it remains the most popular mezcal in Mexico, and is also big in the United States due to its low price.
Made from espadin agave in Oaxaca, Gusano Rojo remains a family-owned mezcal made in the traditional artisanal way. I have read comments that it is made industrially in huge vats, but that’s not the story on the company’s Website. From the taste, this issue remains cloudy in my mind.
The Taste of Gusano Rojo
Sporting the robust flavor of day-old licorice and charcoal, Gusano Rojo warms you up physically after two shots. Another shot, and it lifts your spirits like an Apache helicopter with Hellfire missiles locked and loaded.
If James Bond said “Mezcal -- oily, not smooth.” to the bartender in a Mexican mezcaleria, he probably would be served a shot of Gusano Rojo. It hits the back of the throat, not the roof of your mouth the way a refined mezcal does. Still, it’s not unpleasant, price considered. Best served with worm salt and a slice of orange, this hooch you want to knock back like tequila, not sip like the good stuff.
The grade of mezcal you would expect to find in a Tarantino bar scene, Gusano Rojo is a cut above other joven mezcals in the under $50 range. But it is the only mezcal so far that led to a headache even before the end of the night, so proceed with caution.