Ambergris is Still Illegal
(This title sounds like an old SNL – Weekend Update headline doesn’t it?)
Twice this week, in Google Alerts ‘whales’, I’ve seen an article in different online magazines about adding ambergris to cocktails. Specifically, the bartender was adding a tincture of ambergris to a Negus, a Port wine based beverage. In the article, he made a feeble attempt to deflect criticism by stating that no whales were harmed in the making of the drink, because the ambergris had most likely been found floating or on a beach somewhere.
As true is this could be, it doesn’t matter, at least not in the United States. Ambergris, and all parts of all whales, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Therefore, to have this ambergris, you must have a permit. On top of that, as a colleague from NOAA has just reminded me, even if the bartender had a permit (I’m sure he doesn’t), he can’t use the ambergris for commercial purposes.
Bartenders fulfill several roles while working. I know this from years of experience serving drinks and listening to tales of woe. Serving beverages with illegal ingredients is not part of the job. Writing articles about it, encouraging others to do the same, might get you in trouble.