Green crabs pose a problem to coastal ecosystems. One New Hampshire distillery has a tasty solution.
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House of Tamworth Crab Trapper – Green Crab Flavored Whiskey
Credit: Jenn Bakos

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But if life gives you an invasive crab species, make bourbon?

New Hampshire's Tamworth Distilling — working with a team from the University of New Hampshire — have created Crab Trapper, a green crab-flavored whiskey. And regardless of whether a seafood-accentuated spirit sounds up your alley, this unusual alcohol has an even greater purpose: to find a use for the state's unwanted green crab population which wreaks havoc on New England's coastal ecosystem.

"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," explained Gabriela Bradt, a fisheries specialist with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and NH Sea Grant. "This collaboration is a really unique and exciting opportunity to do that as well as help educate the public about green crabs, climate change and sustainability."

Tamworth explains that green crabs — which originally crossed the Atlantic via European merchant ships in the 1800s — burrow into the sand where they can eat as many as 50 clams, oysters, or mussels a day, plaguing shellfisheries. Their activity also damages the ecosystem at-large, a problem which is worsening due to climate change. And futher complicating matters, the crabs have few practical uses (though previously, they have been suggested as good empanada meat).

House of Tamworth Crab Trapper – Green Crab Flavored Whiskey
Credit: Jenn Bakos

"As ocean temperatures have increased, the populations of these crabs continue to explode. Currently, there is no strategy in place to control the populations of green crabs, and there is no real commercial market or fishery for these invaders," Will Robinson, distiller at Tamworth Distilling, stated. "Green crabs are edible, although they are notoriously low yield, providing significant challenges to being used in traditional culinary creations."

However, the distillery is hoping to help address that final issue. Their Crab Trapper whiskey starts with a "modified sour mash" bourbon base, aged for nearly four years, which Tamworth says offers "enough character to stand up to infusing and flavoring." From there, thousands of green crabs (over 90 pounds' worth) harvested from Seabrook, New Hampshire, were cooked down to a crab stock, fortified with neutral grain spirits, and distilled into "the ideal crab essence." Finally, this essence was blended in with the bourbon base and "steeped with a custom spice blend mixture consisting of paprika, bay, mustard seed, coriander seed, dill seed, cinnamon, clove, and allspice – reminiscent of a low-country boil."

The results — which are bottled at 51 percent ABV — are described as presenting notes of maple, vanilla, and caramel on the nose, followed by flavors like cinnamon, clove, and all-spice. Distillery founder Steven Grasse described the whole thing as a "briny and better Fireball."

"Sustainability and the wilderness surrounding our facility in Tamworth, New Hampshire, is a major source of inspiration for all new products. The unexpected results of these wild experiments are why we love using local flora and fauna as ingredients in our spirits," he continued. "Totally unexpectedly crab and whiskey do in fact go together — but who knew the unique flavor combination would create an all-natural and sustainable riff on Fireball? We certainly didn't!"

Crab Trapper is currently available for sale, with 200-milliliter bottles priced at $65. The limited-run whiskey can be found while supplies last at Seelbachs.com, Philadelphia's Art in the Age, or directly from the Tamworth Distillery at shop.tamworthdistilling.com.