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As the sun dips below the horizon and the warm hues of twilight take over, the air comes alive with the hum of a billion tiny wings. It’s a symphony of sound, a testament to the diversity and resilience of the insect kingdom. But did you know that these tiny creatures, often dismissed as pests, are finding their way into our glasses, one sip at a time?

Insect beer and liquor have emerged as a hip trend in exotic drinking, with innovative breweries and distilleries harnessing the flavors of bugs to create truly unique beverages. These concoctions are not only captivating our taste buds but also raising questions about the future of our planet and the untapped potential of the insect world.

A Symphony of Flavors: The Art of Insect Brewing

When you think of insects, you might not immediately associate them with delicate flavors and refined palates. However, these tiny creatures offer a surprising range of taste profiles, from earthy and nutty to citrusy and bitter. Here’s a taste of some of the most intriguing insect-based beverages out there:

Anty Gin: A Citrus Symphony

Anty Gin is the lovechild of an unusual partnership between the Cambridge Distillery and the Nordic Food Lab. Distilled with red wood ants (Formica rufa), this gin serenades your taste buds with a unique symphony of citrus notes. But why ants? These fascinating insects produce formic acid, which, when combined with the botanicals in gin, creates an extraordinary harmony of surprisingly zesty, citrus flavor that ideally pairs with various wild herbs such as wood avens, nettle, and alexanders seeds.

Every herb is individually distilled to maintain its unadulterated essence before being combined with the extract from sixty-two forest ants. This innovative gin is teeming with delectable, woodsy spice and invigorating lemongrass notes.

Anty Gin is best served neat or in a delightfully unusual Anty Soda.

Green Ant Gin

Green ants are incorporated both pre and post-distillation into the Green Ant Gin to impart a zesty burst to the gin. The integration of Boobialla (native juniper) contributes seaside floral hints along with a subtle sweetness, while Strawberry Gum delivers a mild, warming spice aroma. Lemon Myrtle and Pepper Berry enhance the foundational citrus characteristics by adding complexity and depth. This gin is made by the Seven Seasons team in Australia.

Ingredients: Green Ants, boobialla, strawberry gum, lemon myrtle and pepper berry.

Agave Spirits

Agave spirits, often associated with Mexico, represent a diverse and flavorful category of alcoholic beverages distilled from the agave plant. The most renowned of these is tequila, produced primarily in the Jalisco region, and its smoky cousin, mezcal, which originates mainly from Oaxaca. These spirits are celebrated for their distinctive tastes and rich cultural heritage. Crafted using a variety of agave species and diverse production methods, agave spirits offer a wide range of flavors and aromas, from sweet and fruity to earthy and smoky. As their popularity continues to grow globally, connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike are embracing agave spirits for their versatility in cocktails and ability to be sipped neat or on the rocks.

The Del Que Toma el Cardinal distillery in Oaxaca has come up with a range of mezcal spirits incorporating various insects: crickets, centipede, red mescal worm, stink bug, mealworm and several more. Here is a good selection to buy.

Insect Sour

Bug Farm, a Japanese e-commerce platform specializing in insect-based foods, has recently introduced a novel carbonated whiskey named “Insect Sour.” This innovative concoction is derived from lethocerus deyrollei, a type of colossal water beetle, also known as waterbug or tagame (田鼈 or 水爬虫) in Japan. The beverage stands out with its daring label and distinctive aroma, which is attributed to an extract of a pheromone that mimics the scent of the male giant water beetle. Although it may require some courage to sample this unique drink, it has been characterized as “invigorating” and “fruit-like,” descriptors that rank alongside “it’s beneficial for you” as enticing euphemisms.

Insect Sour is a whiskey sour with 5% alcohol content. Bugs Farm sells it online with a minimum order of only a single bottle.

Tagame Cider

Tagame Cider

Besides Insect Sour, you can also purchase the soft drink Tagame Cider to get a taste of the giant water beetle for those that do not drink alcohol.

Tagame Cider is another refreshing carbonated drink that faithfully reproduces the fruity flavor of the giant water beetle.  It contains 0.3% giant water beetle extract but no alcohol.

Worm Tequila

The worm in the tequila bottle is a fascinating and peculiar aspect of tequila culture, often surrounded by myths and misconceptions. Though not found in all tequila bottles, the worm, or “gusano,” is typically a larva of the Hypopta agavis moth, which thrives on the blue agave plant used to make tequila. Contrary to popular belief, the presence of the worm does not denote the quality of the tequila, but rather serves as a marketing gimmick to capture attention and foster intrigue. The practice of including the worm dates back to the mid-20th century and has since become a widely recognized symbol associated with the spirit.

Popular brands are Lajita Mezcal Reposado con gusano and Monte Alban Mezcal con gusano.

Vodkas with centipede, sago worm, scorpion, bamboo worm,…

Edible insect infusions, including scorpions, centipedes, tarantulas, and other critters, have long been a part of Southeast Asian culture, particularly in the realm of traditional medicine. These infusions, which combine alcohol with various insects, herbs, and sometimes snakes or other creatures, are believed to possess curative and rejuvenating properties according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Although the scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited, these exotic concoctions continue to captivate people’s curiosity and remain an integral part of regional customs. Many adherents of these practices believe that consuming such infusions can help alleviate a range of ailments, boost vitality, and promote overall well-being.

One classic is the Scorpion Vodka, produced by a UK-based company called Skorppio, this vodka features a real, edible scorpion preserved inside the bottle. The scorpions used are farm-raised and undergo a detoxification process before being placed in the bottle. In Thailand, Thailand Unique produces several Scorpion Vodkas and also Bamboo Worm Vodka, Centipede Vodka, Tarantula Vodka, and Sago Worm Vodka.

Beers

Insect-infused beers, such as Belgium’s Beetles Beer and the “Cricket Dark Ale” served at a pop-up event in Tokyo, are innovative and unique examples of how brewers are exploring alternative ingredients to create distinctive flavors and textures in their craft beers.

These unconventional brews not only challenge traditional brewing norms but also serve as a platform to highlight the potential of insects as a sustainable protein source. The use of insects in beer production is not only novel but also showcases the versatility and adaptability of the brewing industry.

Such insect beers not only pique the curiosity of adventurous consumers but also contribute to spreading awareness of sustainable food practices and the need to diversify our food sources in the face of growing global challenges.

Unearthing the Origins of Insect Beverages

The history of insect-based beverages is as rich and varied as the creatures themselves. In many cultures, insects have long been appreciated for their nutritional value and unique flavors. In Mexico, chapulines (grasshoppers) have been enjoyed for centuries, both as a snack and as a flavor enhancer for mezcal. Similarly, the tradition of adding a worm to tequila bottles can be traced back to ancient rituals honoring the sacred agave plant.

In recent years, the Western world has begun to embrace entomophagy, or the consumption of insects. This trend is driven not only by curiosity and the search for new flavors but also by a growing awareness of the environmental impact of traditional protein sources.

Sip Sustainably: The Environmental Case for Insect Beverages

Insects are an incredibly efficient source of protein, requiring far fewer resources to produce than traditional livestock. They emit fewer greenhouse gases, consume less water, and have a smaller ecological footprint. By incorporating insects into our diets and drinks, we can make a positive impact on the environment while still enjoying diverse and delicious flavors.

Crafting the Perfect Bug-Based Pairings and Cocktails

So, how can you enjoy these insect-infused beverages to their fullest potential? Here are some creative cocktail recipes and food pairings to enhance your experience:

The Anty-Gin & Tonic

Pour the gin and tonic water into a glass filled with ice. Add a dash of Critter Bitters, stir gently, and garnish with a lime wheel. Enjoy the subtle interplay of citrus flavors with the earthy undertones of the toasted crickets.

The Scorpion Sunrise

Fill a glass with ice, then pour in the Scorpion Vodka and orange juice. Slowly drizzle the grenadine syrup into the glass, allowing it to sink to the bottom. Garnish with an orange slice and, if you’re feeling daring, a whole scorpion.

Food Pairing: Mezcal and Chapulines Tacos

Pair your favorite mezcal with a traditional Oaxacan dish of chapulines tacos. The smoky flavors of the mezcal complement the spicy, tangy taste of the grasshoppers, creating a culinary experience that transports you to the heart of Mexico.

Also check out our insect food recipe collection.

Final Thoughts: Embracing the Future of Insect Beverages

As you sip on these extraordinary beverages, take a moment to appreciate the tiny creatures that have inspired them. By embracing insect-based beer and liquor, we can explore a new world of flavors while contributing to a more sustainable future for our planet.

What other insect-infused concoctions might be waiting in the wings, ready to surprise and delight our taste buds? Will the hum of a billion tiny wings become the soundtrack to a more sustainable and delicious tomorrow? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: the buzz on bug-based booze is just getting started.