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Critter Bitters wants to be your gateway to an insect-rich diet

Launched by a pair, one in Brooklyn and one in San Francisco, the startup makes cocktail bitters infused with toasted crickets to help take “the ick factor” out of eating insects.

Friday night after work. You and some friends are winding down from the week at the fancy new cocktail bar that recently opened in your neighborhood. You look at the menu. “Why do all these drinks have cricket in them?” you wonder.
That, or at least something like it, is the goal coming out of the new Brooklyn/San Francisco startup, Critter Bitters. They make bitters infused with toasted crickets.
“Our mission is to take ‘the ick factor’ out of eating insects,” explained cofounder Julia Plevin, the Brooklyn half of the team. “We’ve found that by adding crickets to bitters, we were able to help people overcome the psychological barrier of eating insects. … Plus, crickets infused in alcohol yields a really interesting flavor. It’s like a rich, deep honey.”
So, putting bugs in high-end cocktails is an attempt to finally make insects into something worth eating among mainstream Americans — and then beyond.
About one in nine people worldwide suffer from malnutrition or hunger, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme. That’s about 795 million people. That makes hunger the No. 1 health risk worldwide, “greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined,” according to the World Food Programme.
Plevin and her cofounder Lucy Knops wanted to do something about it.
The idea for Critter Bitters came when they were design grad students at the School of Visual Arts. For their thesis project they were given the 2013 U.N. State of Food and Agriculture report, and became interested in the eating of insects as a way to combat world hunger.


Catch that? Eating insects is a viable solution for the amelioration of global hunger (and other problems). In her popular 2011 New Yorker story on entomography, Dana Goodyear laid out the case:

From an ecological perspective, insects have a lot to recommend them. They are renowned for their small “foodprint”; being cold-blooded, they are about four times as efficient at converting feed to meat as are cattle, which waste energy keeping themselves warm. Ounce for ounce, many have the same amount of protein as beef—fried grasshoppers have three times as much—and are rich in micronutrients like iron and zinc.

So the problem then becomes getting people to accept bugs as something to put into food, rather than taking them out.
Another Brooklyn-based company that’s doing quite well on this issue is Exo Protein — we’ve covered them here before. Exo makes protein bars and other products with ground crickets. Last year it raised $1.7 million, and is leading the charge in many ways toward the normalization of insect-eating — this reporter can independently verify that they taste quite good.
“It’s certainly true that we view these bars as a kind of introductory vehicle for insect protein,” Gabi Lewis, cofounder of Exo said in an interview with us last year. “We want to develop a range of delicious and healthy food products, with insect protein as the theme that ties them together.”
It’s the same idea as Critter Bitters.
“Bitters don’t need insects in them, but insects need to be in bitters to help normalize entomophagy,” Plevin said. “Our hope is to give people ways to grapple and interact with some of the most complicated issues of our times. The future of food and food security is definitely a big issue that we are excited to be spurring conversation around. We are also looking forward to finding Critter Bitter cocktails at our favorite local bars.”
As for their favorite drinks? Plevin said she likes a mezcal old fashioned with Critter Bitters. Knops likes whiskey neat with Critter Bitters. Drink up.

Series: Brooklyn

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