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What Whiskey Goes With Crickets?
I like to taste new foods as well as whiskey. I’ve found some unconventional ways to experience both; like sipping whiskey during a rainstorm. Thunderstorms are particularly enjoyable if one can experience the sound, and smell without getting wet … while enjoying a whiskey! Observing precipitation from the protection of my front stoop in a pouring rain while pouring a dram is one of my favorite experiences. Sunday night’s storm afforded me that opportunity.
A steady rain began in the afternoon. The winds were scheduled to arrive later in the evening. The sound of rain drowned out all other sounds except for the birds nesting close to my house. It was the perfect time to fire up a Roly Puro and pair some whiskey with an item I picked up at the Savory Gourmet in Lititz, PA - crickets.
Whiskey is enhanced by the experiences surrounding consuming it. People combine whiskey with cheese, chocolate, or almonds. A special whiskey has even been developed by Dalmore to enjoy with cigars. But, I’m pretty sure WBSE is the first to publish the combination of whiskey with crickets. I chose the Bacon & Cheese Crickettes from HotLix, in Grover Beach CA (www.HotLix.com). They are produced in the USA. I paired the crickets with American whiskies.
I warmed up with Michter’s Bourbon. I chose it specifically as the warmup because bourbon is generally sweeter, not spicy, and familiar. It’s like stretching before a run or doing a couple of reps with just the bar. Several sips in, I was ready to add some weight plates. I fired up the Roly (Puros Indios from Honduras) and let it burn down
about an inch and a half. My taste buds began to
calibrate to the sweetness of the bourbon and the
earthy, mellow taste of Sumatra wrapper on the
cigar. I was ready for the first mouthful of crickets
and whiskey! The crickets may have been a little past
prime. I had opened the package about 2 weeks prior
and they were starting to dry out. The first one I chose was missing a drumstick. I took a big mouthful of bourbon… the cheesy, salty bacon taste of crickets and the barrel sweetness of the bourbon were a nice compliment. The most amazing part was the finish. They finished together. The synergy of flavors lasted past the swallow. The sweet cheese bacon whiskey flavor swirled and lingered like the steady patter of gentle rain falling throughout the afternoon.
I smoked a couple more inches of the Roly as I prepared for the rye. I had just completed the pour and positioned more crickets on my tongue when a pair of noisy, drenched, robins showed up. They perched on my brick mailbox appearing upset and confused. It may have been a continuation of an earlier argument, the fact that I was dry while they were soaked or contempt for the fact that I was enjoying what here-to-fore had been their fare. Their boisterous protestations continued for a few minutes as I mixed the crickets in my mouth with a big gulp of Sazerac Rye.
There was a difference! The cheese flavor came out way more than the bacon flavor. The mouth feel of the rye was creamier, heavier on my tongue. The spice and pepper seemed to alter the character of the cricket. I didn’t notice the crunchiness of the exoskeleton as much when balanced with the more viscous texture of the rye. The pair of robins peered as if perplexed as I prepared my next pour.
The final pairing was with a wheat whiskey. I had experimented with Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey before. It is a whiskey that uses soft winter wheat in place of other grains. But how would it go with crickets? This time it was the grain that seemed to benefit. I’m not a fan of wheated whiskies, preferring the sweetness of corn or barley. Lacking the creaminess of the rye, the taste of the whiskey brought me back to chewing grain as a boy, harvesting wheat in my grandmother’s fields. My father showed me how to separate the wheat from the chaff and chew it until it obtained the same consistency as rubbery chewing gum. It was a yeasty, doughy, grain flavor that dominated this combination. Just to confirm, I went back to the rye.
Darkness was falling as the winds picked up. It required more motivation than I could muster to remain out in the rain on the front porch and I was starting to get wet. The robins were gone. Their argument was settled or they accepted they would have to settle for worms. I smoked the Roly to a nub and called it a night. It was no surprise the peppery rye went best with the bacon and cheese crickets, but my experience made me wonder...
Is there a cricket recipe that pairs with an Islay whisky?