Adelaide Hills distiller Sacha La Forgia making green ant gin.
Native green ants are the hero ingredient in a new gin being launched in South Australia next week.
The insect-inspired beverage has been created by Adelaide Hills distiller Sacha La Forgia, who won gold for his first commercial gin at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition last year.
Despite working with a lot of native plants, he was not initially enthused about using green ants when they were first brought to his attention.
"I didn't want to eat ants and I had these pictures of little ants in my still just dying and popping," he said.
"Finally I ate one and that was it. They're just incredible little packets of flavour."
The gin is a joint venture with Something Wild, an Adelaide-based company that supplies a range of indigenous food and wild game meat and has a permit to harvest green ants in the Northern Territory.
The business is run by high-profile football family the Motlops.
Brothers Shannon and Daniel Motlop, who both played in the Australian Football League, collect the ants by cutting their nests out of trees.
It can be painful work.
"The ant packs a bit of a punch when it bites," Shannon Motlop said.
"And when you do get bitten you get bitten by 10 or 20 of them."
Green ants are gaining momentum in culinary circles, with growing interest from influential Australian and international chefs including Rene Redzepi from Noma restaurant.
Daniel Motlop said he was surprised by the demand for an insect that traditionally was used as more of a bush medicine and is now selling to restaurants for the wholesale price of $650 per kilogram.
"As a kid going out in the bush, we used to mess around and taste a few and bite their backsides off," Daniel Motlop said.
"It's just got that little hit I suppose. But we never ever thought of it as a commercial food industry."Landline: Kerry Staight
Someone who has thought about it as a high-end commercial food is South Australian cheese maker Kris Lloyd.
The Adelaide Hills producer has released a goats cheese topped with green ants.
"I like to see them whole. I actually think they're very beautiful," she said.
At $350 a kilo, the insect-encrusted chevre is one of the most expensive cheeses in the country.
It received a super gold award at the World Cheese Awards late last year, beating more than 3,000 other entries.
Its creator says the critters taste like a combination of kaffir lime and lemon grass.
"It's like a sherbet bomb exploding in your mouth," she said.
Sacha La Forgia also has not been shy in displaying his hero ingredient.
As well as using green ants during the distilling process, he's saved a few for the bottling.
"They've got a really nice acidic zing in their abdomen," he said.
"So instead of losing that in the distillation we thought we'd include the ants and it just lifts the gin a little bit.
"And the brave people at the party can eat them at the end."Posted Fri Feb 17 11:20:06 EST 2017