Boutique gin boasts all the flavor of 62 forest ants
Not so long ago the only things that came in a bottle ofalcohol (beside the alcohol itself) were the occasional odds and ends that fell in as it was being made, orsome fruit that was deliberately shoehorned in to make it look decorative. Today there seems to be a craze for all sorts of objects jammed into bottles of spirit– scorpions, worms, and other creepy crawlies being particularly common. Actually distilling the essence of an insect to make an alcoholic beverage rather than just pickling it in a bottle, however, is a different prospect altogether. But now acompany in the UK has done just that, by using an extract from ants to create a special type of gin.
Formic acid, the inbuilt defense mechanismfor ants, is a very reactive type of organic compound, particularly whencombined with alcohol. When alcohol and formic acid are brought together theyproduce a range of aromatic esters (compounds that produce smells and flavors)that enhance the taste of fermented or distilled drinks. The aromas of fruit,for example, are a product of esters, and this is also the reason that fruitsare turned into alcoholic beverages – their flavors and aromas are enhancedwhen the sugars in them are distilled into alcohol.
Using the red wood ant, Formica rufa,which has been harvested from the forests of Kent, England, each bottle ofAnty-gin, as it is known, will be infused with the essence of around 62 of these ants. Collected by a specialistcompany known as Foragers, the ants have been selected and maintainedbefore being combined with a range of plants and berries and distilled into a42 percent proof ant-flavored concoction.
To enhance the flavor a little more, otheringredients are added, including Bulgarian juniper berries, wood avens (a perennial forest herb), common nettle (Urticadioica), and alexanders seed (abiennial wild relative of celery), along with a 100 percent organically-grownEnglish wheat as the base for the spirit. Each distillation is also asserted to be done onesingle liter at a time.
The contents of the bottle, the makersclaim, is all foraged by hand – from the ants to all of the wild plantingredients – each ingredient is manually caught, picked, and blended. This anti-machinerybent gives way, but only slightly, when the bottle is labelled. Using a 1924typewriter, each label is typed up one at a time.
A joint venturebetween experimental Copenhagen-based Nordic Food Lab and the CambridgeDistillery, only ninety-nine bottles of Anty gin will be produced in its firstcommercial run. At about £200 (US$312) per bottle, and only available at theCambridge Distillery shop, it may be a drinking experience limited to a veryfew.
Source: The Cambridge Distillery