What to Do With Invasive Crabs? This Distiller Turns Them Into Whiskey

green crab
Image courtesy Tamworth Distillery

Published Jun 23, 2022 9:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

A distillery in New Hampshire has come up with a novel way to make a product out of a marine invasive species - the notorious green crab. 

The green crab is a voracious predator of native shellfish, and it spreads rapidly by means of hull fouling and untreated ballast water. It is considered one of the world's worst invasive species, and one of the hardest to control - especially since it has little commercial value as a fishery. It can be found on both coasts of the United States, and it is a major threat to shellfish populations, particularly soft-shelled clams. 

Attempts to promote green crab as a food source have had limited success. However, Tamworth Distillery - a small batch maker in New Hampshire - has teamed up with the University of New Hampshire's Green Crab Project to incorporate this unwanted crustacean into a boutique whiskey. 

The distillery took 90 pounds of locally-caught green crab (amounting to thousands of tiny individual crabs) and boiled them down into a stock, along with a dose of spices like paprika, mustard seed, coriander, clove and allspice. Blended in with an aged bourbon base, this mixture provides the flavor for Tamworth's new "Crab Trapper" whiskey. The combination came out like an "all-natural and sustainable riff on Fireball," according to Tamworth founder Steven Grasse.

"Green crabs are incredibly invasive so one of my goals as a researcher is to try and help create viable fisheries and markets as a solution to help mitigate the problem," said Gabriela Bradt, a fisheries specialist with University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, speaking to Food & Wine. "This collaboration is a really unique and exciting opportunity to do that."