Beetle Juice: Insect-Infused Cocktails

Chapulines (fried grasshoppers) in Mexico / Getty

From beetle garnishes and cricket-infused “critter bitters,” to glassware rimmed with crushed worms and ants, here are five cocktails made with edible insects.

But before you bug out, know that these ingredients weren’t chosen by bartenders based on the perceived “ick factor” alone. Most have historical/cultural precedent or nutritional value. Read on for some of the most critter-rific, adventurous cocktails you’ve ever seen.

Yum Kaan Black Ant
Photo by Prince Rumi


At The Black Ant in New York City, owner Jorge Guzman incorporates a number of Oaxacan staples into dishes and drinks, including sal de hormiga, or salt with ground-up leaf cutter ants. It is used to rim the glass of this mezcal-based sipper, lending an earthy tang to the drink.

 Yum Kaax

Courtesy Jorge Guzman, The Black Ant, New York City

Since powdered ants are hard to obtain in the U.S., try a salt-and-pepper rim to approximate the visual effect.

  • Coarse salt and pepper in equal parts (or sal de hormiga) to rim glass
  • 1 lime wedge, for rim
  • 2 ounces mezcal
  • 1½ ounces Mexican sweet corn juice*
  • 2 leaves of Epazote and Hoja Santa (wild Mexican herbs)
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • ½ ounce agave nectar

In a small dish, combine salt and pepper (or salt and powdered ant). Moisten the rim of a rocks glass with the lime wedge. Roll the edge of the glass in the salt/pepper mix. Place glass in the freezer to chill. Add remaining ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into the prepared glass over fresh ice.

For Mexican sweet corn juice

One ear of corn yields about 3 ounces of juice. Cut the kernels off of 1 ear of sweet Mexican corn, and blend with 1 tablespoon of water.

Beetlejuice CocktailBeetles

According to bartender Bryan Galligos, this cocktail—aptly called Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice—was inspired by the diet of a beetle, namely fruit, leaves and wood. That translated to using apple, basil and rosemary to create what’s not only a fall-appropriate cocktail, but a perfect Halloween drink. It has a green hue and sports an edible beetle garnish that’s supplied by Newport Jerky Company, which offers an array of preserved insects. A waft of smoke from charred rosemary adds a full-on spooky effect.

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice

Courtesy Bryan Galligos, bartender, Bacchus Bar, Portland, OR

  • 1 rosemary sprig (for charring)
  • 1½ ounces Calvados (apple brandy)
  • 1 ounce apple cider
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • 5–7 basil leaves
  • Beetle from Newport Jerky Company, for garnish

Carefully char rosemary with a match or lighter and place overturned martini glass over it as it smokes. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine next five ingredients. Shake well, and strain into martini glass. Garnish with beetle, if desired.

Dromedary Cocktail


Critter Bitters, made with toasted crickets, was released earlier this year following a successful crowdsourcing campaign. The product was created to introduce people to the idea of crickets as an alternative protein source. Here, the producers say, crickets add a sweet, nutty note to drinks. Used in the signature cocktail at “urban tiki bar” Dromedary, adventurous visitors can also pair the insect-laced cocktail with snacks like deviled eggs topped with crunchy, salty roasted crickets.

The Dromedary

Courtesy Michael Lombardozzi, proprietor, Dromedary Bar, Brooklyn, NY

  • 2 ounces Myers Original Dark Rum
  • ½ ounce Barbadillo Pedro Ximenez Sherry
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce orgeat (almond syrup)
  • 2 dashes Critter Bitters
  • 3 pineapple leaves, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine first four ingredients. Shake well, and strain into a hurricane glass over crushed ice. Top with two dashes of Critter Bitters. Garnish with pineapple leaves and a plastic camel, if desired.

 La Tuna Te Toca CocktailGrasshoppers

In Oaxaca, chapulines (grasshoppers) are sold, cooked and coated with a little lime juice and sliced or powdered chili peppers. This drink, essentially a grasshopper-infused mezcal margarita, starts with muddled chapulines for a toasty flavor and adds a sal de gusano (agave worm salt) rim. Interestingly, the tuna listed below is not the fish—it refers to sweet-tart prickly pear juice from the opuntia plant, a species of cactus. Because tuna fish in a cocktail? Now that would be gross.

 La Tuna Te Toca

Courtesy H. Joseph Ehrmann, proprietor, Elixir, San Francisco

  • Sal de gusano, to rim glass
  • 1 lime wedge, for rim
  • 3–4 chapulines (grasshoppers)
  • 1½ ounces Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal
  • 1 ounce Prickly Pear (tuna) juice
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • ½ ounce agave nectar
  • ½ ounce Maraschino liqueur
  • Lime peel, for garnish

Place sal de gusano in a small dish. Moisten the rim of a coupe glass with the lime wedge. Roll the edge of the glass in the salt mix. Place the glass in a freezer to chill.In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle the chapulines. Add remaining ingredients, except garnish, with ice. Shake well, and double strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with lime peel.


Small Mexican chain eatery Rosa Mexican uses smoked guajillo (a type of chili powder) mixed with sal de gusano for a smoky-earthy glass rim that adds spice with every sip. This drink, the Mezcal-isco, is inspired by the traditional way of sipping agave spirits in Jalisco, Mexico. There, locals sprinkle worm salt on an orange or apple slice and nibble between sips of smoky mezcal.


Courtesy Courtenay Greenleaf, beverage director, Rosa Mexicano, New York City

  • Sal de gusano, to rim glass
  • 1 lime wedge, for rim
  • 1 ounce Peloton mezcal
  • 1 ounce Espolón Reposado Tequila
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • ¾ ounce agave nectar
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 half-moon orange slice, for garnish

Place the sal de gusano in a small dish. Moisten the rim of a rocks glass with the lime wedge. Roll the edge of the glass in the salt mix. Place the glass in a freezer to chill. Add remaining ingredients, except garnish, to a mixer filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into the prepared glass over fresh ice. Garnish with the orange slice placed vertically along the inside wall of the glass, if desired.

Published on October 11, 2016
Topics: Cocktails & Spirits
About the Author
Kara Newman 
Spirits Editor

Kara Newman reviews spirits and writes about spirits and cocktail trends for Wine Enthusiast. She’s the author of several cocktail books, including Shake.Stir.Sip., NIGHTCAP: More than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening and Cocktails With a Twist, released August 2019. Email:

The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories