No bar set-up is complete without a trusted bottle of bitters. As any cocktail connoisseur knows, they are a staple ingredient in classic cocktails such as the Sazerac, Old Fashioned and Manhattan, and new age mixologists are constantly finding new ways to incorporate the nifty ingredient. While there are plenty of whimsical options on the market like strawberry rhubarb and spicy blackstrap molasses, one innovative company is thinking outside the box. Lucy Knops and Julia Plevin co-founded Critter Bitters with the goal of taking the “ick factor” out of entomophagy (aka bug-eating). The small batch, handcrafted bitters are made with toasted crickets and currently come in four different varieties: Vanilla Cricket, Cacao Cricket, Toasted Almond Cricket and Pure Cricket. Each yields a multifaceted flavor profile that adds a quirky twist to any cocktail or even simple soda water.
If you’re in search of an affordable vodka that can double as a one-of-a-kind conversation piece, then look no further than Bamboo Worm Vodka. The triple-distilled rice grain spirit is infused with farm-raised Omphisa fuscidentalis (more commonly known as bamboo worms) and steeped for several months. In Southeast Asia, bamboo worms can be found in the forests and bamboo groves of northern Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, and are commonly eaten as a deep-fried snack seasoned with herbs and spices. Thailand Unique is the label’s leading exporter and sells a 70-ml bottle for only $8.99. And if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, the website carries even more jarring alternatives like Tarantula and Centipede Vodka.
In 2013, husband and wife team MariElena and Joe Raya founded Bittermilk, a Charleston-based brand of cocktail mixers, with the mission of simplifying the art of mixing craft cocktails at home. They quickly built a reputation for themselves, winning multiple awards for their high quality, handmade products created with all-natural and organic components. It was this approach that led them to the star ingredient in their No.4 Old Fashioned Rouge. Instead of simply opting for a synthetic red food dye, the team developed their bittersweet mixer using a traditional South and Central American colorant: the cochineal beetle. The bodies of female cochineals are pulverized to achieve the signature red hue, and allow an all-natural dying method that is still used across multiple industries ranging from candies to cosmetics. Bittermilk’s No.4 Old Fashioned Rouge is packed with complex flavors such as lemon peel, licorice and spice, and pairs perfectly with rye in a rocks glass over ice.
We’re all accustomed to the traditional flavors expressed in a fine gin, typically ranging from juniper and pine to coriander and citrus. But if you’ve ever dreamt of sipping a gin with notes of foraged red wood ants, now is your chance. Anty Gin launched as limited edition joint venture between Copenhagen-based Nordic Food Lab and The Cambridge Distillery back in 2014. Commonly found in the forests of the Northern Hemisphere, red wood ants are known to communicate using a sophisticated array of chemical pheromones, which reportedly smells like salt and vinegar. Each 700-ml bottle of Anty Gin comes with a 50-ml dropper bottle of pure ant distillate, which contains approximately 62 red wood ants harvested by a team in Kent, England. Other ingredients used to complement the unique ant additives and flavor the spirit include Bulgarian juniper berries and wild springtime botanicals like wood avens, nettle and alexanders seed. To taste it for yourself, you can purchase a bottle online for £230 (or approximately $300 USD).