A year after being launched, the Australian Green Ant Gin has won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition last month. The gold medal recognises the gin as an “exceptional spirit” and “a product that sets the standard for its category”.
The gin reflects the synergy between Something Wild Beverage Company (the Indigenous-owned offshoot of native food supplier, Something Wild) and Adelaide Hills Distillery, which specialises in small-batch spirits made with native ingredients.
Green ants have traditionally been used by Indigenous Australians as medicine, but Something Wild first harvested them for René Redzepi’s Noma Australia pop-up in 2016. The demand from restaurants has since exploded, with a kilo of green ants now going for around $650.
“We have a permit system for how many we harvest, for sustainability,” explains Something Wild’s owner Daniel Motlop, a Larrakia man and former AFL player (pictured above, right). “We worked out how to remove ants from the nests and put the nests back when we’re done. The babies and the queen are left in the nest. We put them back in the bush and when we come back a few days later, they have started to regroup and make new nests.” The ants are hand-harvested by the Larrakia people in the Northern Territory.
“We’ve got so much incredible produce here in Australia, beautiful flavours that the rest of the world don’t really have access to. It made sense for us to use them,” tells the distillery’s founder, Sacha La Forgia (pictured above, left), to SBS Food.
Something Wild not only provides the green ants, but also other ingredients for the gin, like strawberry gum, finger lime, lemon myrtle, pepper berry and boobialla. “They’re making sure that the people growing and harvesting the ingredients are being paid properly. And it’s done in a sustainable way so that the food is there next year, and the year after, and 20 years from now,” says La Forgia.
What does the gin taste like?
The green ants are used in the distilling process, and a few ants, which you can eat, are added to the bottom of each bottle, for an extra zing.
Green ants have a very intense citrusy flavour of kaffir lime and coriander that shines through the gin. La Forgia recommends simply drinking it with tonic or in a martini.
While the gin was initially created as a limited-edition release, its popularity convinced the Adelaide Hills Distillery to keep producing it.
More spirits to discover
The Australian Green Ant Gin was not the only product from the Adelaide Hills Distillery rewarded at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The Bitter Orange Apéritif, 78˚Gin and Native Grain Project Wattleseed and Malt Whisky also received medals. (You can see all the winners here.)
The Adelaide Hills Distillery’s next spirit, a pink gin, is set to be released next month. It will incorporate their Bitter Orange Apéritif and bush apples.
From August, you’ll be able to taste all the Adelaide Hills Distillery spirits at a brand new cellar door in Nairne.
Lead image from Instagram @Bloodwoodntown