5 places in LA that serve edible bug cocktails

Written by
Danielle Silva
Photograph: Jakob N. LaymanTacoteca

Care for desiccated worms in your cocktail? How about crushed crickets? Apparently, edible bugs (edible being the key here) are the latest ingredient for LA’s leading mixologists. Creative masterminds, from Julian Cox (Petty Cash) to Gilbert Marquez (Tacoteca), are taking fresh produce to a whole new level on the farm-to-glass cocktail front. Here’s the really strange part: The bugged-out beverages they’re whipping up actually taste good. Not to mention, creepy crawlies are inherently nutritious; some have more iron and protein than meat, plus omega-3 fatty acids equal to that of fish.

So quit your eww-ing and give one of these a try. Don’t worry, the smoky mezcal in each of these concoctions blends perfectly with the metallic, dirt-like flavor of dried caterpillar, powdered crickets and whole, deep-fried grasshoppers. We won’t say anything if you can’t find the courage to nibble on your garnish. Bug Appétit!

Cocktail: Jasmine Margarita at Bar Centro (The Bazaar by José Andrés)

Price: $17

Major Ingredients: Avignon Silver tequila, lime juice, pomegranate syrup and bitters make up this more straightforward concoction from mixologist Conor O’Brien.

Bottom Line: Surprisingly, this is probably the least adventurous libation on the list and the only one without mezcal. The drink itself is really just a pomegranate margarita. Where it gets a little out-of-the-box is on the rim of the glass, which is dipped in sal de gusano, or a Oaxacan salt blended with dried agave worms. The taste is savory, and frankly, you’d never know it was made out of bugs.

Cocktail: Garra de Tigre at Guelaguetza

Price: $8.95

Major Ingredients: The family recipe for “The Tiger’s Claw” calls for mezcal, lemon juice and simple syrup.

Bottom Line: This is the perfect gateway insect cocktail because it’s basically a margarita that happens to be dusted with pulverized Maguey caterpillar. On its own, the powder lining the glass has a pleasant savory taste that’s almost meaty. Washing it down with the rest of the drink really brings out the smoky flavor of the Oaxacan spirit. All in, it’s a more complex experience than what you’d get sipping your standard tequila-based margarita.

Cocktail: The Aguacatero at Tacoteca

Price: $12

Major Ingredients: Mezcal, avocado, and lime are shaken up and served on the rocks in a glass rimmed with traditional sal de gusano.

Bottom Line: It may not be on the menu, but ask for it and you shall receive. Forget about the light green hue of the drink. That’s just the muddled avocado. What might trip you up are the three skewered seasoned and cooked Mexican grasshoppers or chapulines that you are meant to eat alongside your cocktail. Remember, bugs are good for you.

Cocktail: The Maestro at Cocina Condesa

Price: $12

Major Ingredients: Mezcal, lemon juice, ginger juice and fresno chili-infused honey make up the bulk of the drink. Of course, we can’t forget the garnish—cricket salt.

Bottom Line: This Studio City mezcaleria is all about authentic Mexican fare with a healthy twist, and that’s no exception when it comes to the drinks by executive mixologist David Rubin. The Maestro is a refreshing blend of citrus and spice straight from the garden. The cricket salt is just for some extra protein.

Cocktail: The Main Ingredient at Petty Cash Taqueria

Price: $14

Main Ingredients: Tequila blanco, fresh lime, avocado, sherry and salsa water round out this unique drink dreamt up by local bug cocktail pioneer (whether he knows it or not) Julian Cox.

Bottom Line: Cox first brought edible insects into the cocktail scene with his mezcal-based and grasshopper salt-rimmed Donaji cocktail at the now-defunct Riviera. At Petty Cash, he once again rims the glass with a crushed chapulin-laced salt, but also dusts the drink itself with the seasoning, which really plays up the earthy, smoky nature of the mezcal.

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