At the last count (with Seb from Bad Frankie) there were 105 Australian gins on the market. I know for a fact there are more to come this year, and beyond. Such exciting times to be a gin lover in Australia!
I’m particularly intrigued by the increasing research into, and use of, native ingredients in some of these gins. This month, two gins launched that broadened the scope of native ingredients from plants to insects. Sacha LaForgia, from Adelaide Hills in South Australia, released his Green Ant gin followed swiftly by a gin of the same name from Applewood Distillery, also in South Australia.
Using ants as a gin botanical is not a new idea. Celebrated chef René Redzepi, owner of NOMA, launched Anty Gin in 2013. Formica rufa, the red wood ant, use chemical compounds to communicate with each other and defend themselves from predators. Redzepi’s discovered that these compounds are delicious when mixed with alcohol. Similarly, Bass & Flinders in Mornington launched their Angry Ant gin in 2016.
Why green ants?
I chatted to Sacha about his collaboration with Something Wild (who also supplied NOMA) and how he came to launch Green Ant gin. One of the first things that became evident was the concern that native ingredients are often foraged from land owned by Indigenous communities without permission. Sacha explained “Richard (Gunner) from Something Wild was keen to work together in helping grow the business of the Motlop family of the Larrakia people, establish new opportunities, as well as help raise awareness of how native Australian ingredients are sourced.”
Early in 2016 Richard, who is best mates with Sacha’s business partner Toby, gave him some green ants to pass on to Sacha. Sacha admitted that with the expansion at Adelaide Hills, distilling ants wasn’t high on his list of priorities. When he finally got around to tasting a green ant he said he was blown away by the flavours “limey, coriander with herbaceous notes, I knew it was a perfect gin botanical”.
How do you distill ants?
Sacha is a fractional distiller meaning that each gin botanical is distilled individually before being blended together (Andrew Marks at Melbourne Gin Company also does this). Sacha’s gins are 100% vapour infused as he feels this best protects the delicate botanicals. When it came to distilling the green ants (which come frozen!), Sacha says he ran the still much more slowly to preserve the flavours.
Green Ant gin botanicals
Sacha created an entirely new gin recipe for this project. Alongside the green ants you’ll find finger native finger limes, pepper berry, lemon myrtle, strawberry gum, boobialla (native juniper), and juniper.
In aid of research I fished one of the ants out of the bottle and ate it. Yes, I ate an ant, so you don’t have to! Lime flavours (a mix between citrus and kaffir lime) burst out of the ant followed by some herbaceous notes which come through when you are chewing. Surprisingly, eating an ant was not that bad. I’m not sure I’d do it on a regular basis, mind you.
Green Ant gin is a fresh, citrus forward gin with lots of green lime notes on the nose and palate. The botanical flavours and ‘zing’ from the ants definitely comes through and there is a hint of pepper to cut through the citrus. As with all of Sacha’s spirits, it’s of great quality, smooth with an excellent finish.
The best part of the project is that a share of the profits on sales of Green Ant gin go back to the Larrakia people, so you can enjoy a tipple while supporting a great social enterprise! For more information on green ants, watch this video from ABC Landline.
Country of origin: Australia
To purchase Green Ant gin click here.