Two Adelaide Hills distilleries have this month released gins made with green ants, which have been eaten for thousands of years by Aborigines for their high protein and medicinal benefits.
The gins also use a range of native botanicals to provide a fresh Australian interpretation of a London Dry Gin.
Applewood Distillery released its Green Ant Gin on Valentine’s Day, while Something Wild Beverages will launch its Australian Green Ant Gin today.
Adelaide Hills Distillery is making the gin under contract for newly-formed Something Wild Beverages, a division of native food company Something Wild, which specialises in sustainably sourced indigenous foods such as kangaroo, wallaby, magpie goose, native herbs and fruits.
Adelaide Hills Distillery founder and head distiller Sacha La Forgia says it took him several months to be persuaded to eat green ants and allow them to be put in his still.
“But once I did it was like an incredible flavour explosion in my mouth of lime and coriander flavours as well as a fresh acidic zing,” he says.
“It was just beautiful and I thought straight away, ‘Wow, they exist to be in gin’.”
A “pinch” of green ants, which are sourced under permit from the Northern Territory, is also put into the bottles in the same way worms are used in tequila to provide the finishing touch.
“That acidic zing doesn’t carry over in the still so we include some ants in every bottle and it just lifts the palate a bit,” La Forgia says.
“By putting them in the bottle, I’m hoping to encourage people to eat one and taste it.
“When people try one their eyes light up and they get a big smile on their face.”
Other Australian native foods used as botanicals in the gin include finger lime, pepper berry, the native juniper boobialla and leaves from strawberry gum and lemon myrtle trees.
“By using more leaves I was able to use less juniper while still maintaining those same characteristics that you would normally associate with gin,” La Forgia says.
The Australian Green Ant Gin has an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 42 per cent and is priced at $97.50 for a 700ml bottle on the Something Wild Beverages website.
The company aims to have national and possibly international distribution for the product, depending on demand.
Under the collaboration between Adelaide Hills Distillery and Something Wild, profits from the botanicals gathered on Aboriginal lands flow back into those outback communities.
“I think now is quite an important time because we are seeing the popularity of native foods increasing very quickly,” La Forgia says.
“It’s a feel-good thing but it’s also very necessary to make sure that these ingredients are sustainable and that they are still there in the future.”
Meanwhile, Applewood Distillery has almost sold out of its limited edition of 300 bottles of Green Ant Gin. The 500ml bottles are also 42 per cent ABV and cost $120 each.
Previous limited-edition gins at the distillery, based in Gumeracha, have included torpedo-hopped gin with lavender and distilling gin through saltbush.
The Green Ant Gin features ants sourced under permit from New South Wales as well as a number of other native botanicals.
Head distiller Brendan Carter says the response to the gin has been “insane” and he expects the 300 bottles to be sold out by the end of the month.
He says the main constituent that gives the green ants their distinctive sharp, citrus flavour is formic acid.
“In this particular one we also wanted to emphasise the native citruses, which I think a lot of people are getting their heads around at the moment, so there’s finger limes and a little bit of strawberry gum leaf in there, too,” Carter says.
“Our limited editions are a complete once-off, so we’ll do that and move on to something else challenging and uber-creative in typical Applewood fashion.”
This article was first published on The Lead.
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