Edible insects are widely touted as a way for the world to get more protein without the environmental problems that come with raising cows or pigs. The problem, of course, is that most people in the West aren’t quite ready to embrace the idea of eating bugs.
Maybe cocktails can help. A new product called Critter Bitters is made with crickets, so you can start by drinking your insects with your booze–and then, in theory, move on to eating them.
“The mission of Critter Bitters is to get people over the ‘ick factor’ of eating insects,” says Julia Plevin, who began creating the new product along with Lucy Knops while they were masters students in the School of Visual Arts’ Products of Design program. “We have found that people are more likely to eat crickets after having a drink made with Critter Bitters.”
At the moment, the bitters come in two offerings. A “pure cricket” tincture is made by infusing toasted crickets in alcohol. “We made this product so that people could understand the flavor profile of crickets on their own–it’s a rich, nutty flavor,” she says. The designers also made toasted cricket bitters, which mixes the bugs with roots and spices, and tastes “sweet and woodsy.”
It works in any cocktail that calls for bitters, like an Old Fashioned.
Unlike some other cricket-based foods–like “Chirps,” a chip made with cricket flour–the bitters don’t provide much protein (they may offer other vitamins and minerals; the designers plan to have a lab analyze the nutrition). This isn’t going to substitute for a hamburger. But it might help make it easier for people to move on to eat other cricket food or maybe even to snack on bugs directly.
“It’s a gateway and also a way to change behavior,” says Plevin. “We’ve already seen it working! We’ll often have some cricket snacks or canapes around when people are trying Critter Bitters. Once they’ve had a Critter Bitters drink, they are definitely more likely to try the food made with crickets. We’ve even seen people who are vegetarian–for environmental or sustainability reasons–give Critter Bitters a try. And then once you try it, you realize that insects actually taste pretty good.”
Critter Bitters is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter.