When René Redzepi moved his staff from Copenhagen to London for a ten-day stint in the summer of 2012, the chef at the World’s Best Restaurant, Noma, brought along some live Danish critters to add to his cuisine: ants.
“Ants”, the eponymous dish that was the talk of London gastronomes that summer, was exactly that: live, anesthetized ants scrambling over cabbage leaves dolloped with crème fraîche for a taste that the Independent equated to lemongrass.
Redzepi innovation has helped moved Formicae into foodie fashion in a variety of forms. The Nordic Food Lab, “a non-profit, open source organisation that investigates food diversity and deliciousness", which Redzepi founded in 2008, began pairing ants with alcohol a little under a year after Noma's London pop-up. The Lab's Ph. D. Director, Michael Bom Frøst and his team, independent of Redzepi, paired up with the Cambridge Distillery and Master Distiller Will Lowe, to create Anty Gin, likely the first gin to employ flavours from ambulatory creatures.
The combination of bug and booze supposedly works because of the formic acid and chemical pheromones released by the Formica rufa variety of ant, pheromones which, according to the Nordic Food Lab, “are the same volatile molecules we perceive as aroma".
Foraged in Kent, the ants are worked chemically to produce a distillate that is then mixed with botanicals which, in Anty Gin’s case, include Bulgarian juniper berries, wood avens, nettle and alexanders seed.
Anty Gin's recipe was just one of many spawned from the "Art of being an insect" festival, appropriately called "Pestival". Thanks to exotic concoctions like Anty Gin, concoctions that include ingredients such as house crickets and locusts, The Nordic Food Lab received a grant to continue its research program "to further explore the deliciousness of insects".
With Anty Gin priced at £200 per bottle, you’ll have to splurge to get your feelers on one of the 99 that have been produced. If you can't take a whole bottle back to your colony, perhaps you could manage to carry one of the 50ml droppers of ant distillate sold with the bottle back to your Queen and experiment with your own insect imbibition.