Making Whiskey Out of Invasive Crabs

A New Hampshire distillery is tackling the invasion of green crabs along the East Coast by creating “Crab Trapper,” a unique crab-flavored whiskey.

Will Robinson the product developer at Tamworth Distilling shared with NPR’s Kai McNamee: “People are going to hear crab whiskey, and I’d venture to say three-quarters of them are going to go, ‘No, absolutely not,'” said Robinson. “But if you can get them to taste it, they totally change their tune for the most part.”

“Crab Trapper” is crafted from a crab stock base, distilled under vacuum, and infused with spices such as mustard seed, coriander, and cinnamon, along with a bourbon base, resulting in a distinctive flavor that Steven Grasse, the distillery’s owner, describes to Food & Wine’s Mike Pomranz as a “briny and better Fireball.” Each bottle incorporates about a pound of crabs.

The European green crab, Carcinas maenas, introduced to the U.S. East Coast around 200 years ago, has become one of North America’s most formidable invasive marine species, according to Gabriela Bradt, a marine biologist at the University of New Hampshire. With a voracious appetite and high reproductive capacity, these crabs pose a significant threat to local marine life.

Despite historically being controlled by New England’s cold winters, rising temperatures over the past decade have led to a population surge. While green crabs are a delicacy in some European regions, such as Venice, New England has been slower to adopt them as a food source. The NH Green Crab Project at the University of New Hampshire is investigating the potential for establishing a fishery and market for these crabs in the U.S.

Currently, crabbers lack financial motivation to catch green crabs in quantities significant enough to reduce the invasive species’ population. However, the introduction of new products utilizing the crab, such as fishing bait, whiskey, fish sauce, and others, could start to change that.

Grasse emphasizes the distillery’s commitment to sustainability and the inspiration drawn from local wildlife for their product innovations. The success of “Crab Trapper” whiskey, an unexpected yet sustainable twist on Fireball, is certainly a unique flavor combination in spirit production.

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