During the last weeks of winter, in an airy kitchen at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, two design students are making cocktail bitters. A long wooden table holds mason jars and gleaming bottles of bourbon, vodka, and neutral grain spirits. The fragrance of ingredients that will macerate over the next few weeks, until they surrender their flavor to the alcohol, hangs in the air. There are white bowls of toasted coconut and raw cacao, as well as a jar of cinnamon sticks. Then, there are the crickets.
Lucy Knops rolls up the sleeves of her loose black shirt and carefully pours each ingredient into a small, clear measuring cup sitting on a digital kitchen scale. Her classmate Julia Plevin records the weights in a spreadsheet. When she gets to the crickets, Knops leans closer and peers into the cup. “That’s so crazy,” she says, “there are so many legs!” I follow her gaze; dozens of wiry amputated appendages cling to the sides like the staticky trimmings from a haircut. Knops dumps the whole thing into an empty jar.
I am witnessing a test batch of Critter Bitters, which the pair first created for a school project in 2013.