Ain't No Party Like a Green Party: Alcohol Goes Organic

Ain't No Party Like a Green Party: Alcohol Goes Organic

by Rachel Spellman
10.06.2008

Do you proudly identify yourself as all organic, a tree hugger, or a localvore?  Well, you needn’t omit “boozer” from that list, because now you can be eco-conscious while drinking yourself unconscious. That’s right, even the cocktail is going green. 

Unless you’ve been living as a hermit for the past couple of years (that locust and honey diet sure gets results, am I right?) then you most certainly have been bombarded by labels such as “organic” and “locally produced” and “sustainably farmed.” While the debate over which label is most significant can get entirely too messy, it is easier than ever before to pick an eco friendly poison.

Spirits

Vodka’s popularity has grown exponentially in the past decade, especially with new flavors debuting seemingly every month. Thus far, U.S. brands haven’t captured much of the premium vodka market, but there are a number of companies striving to change that with quality small-scale operations. One obvious advantage is that local wares uses less fuel as they aren’t shipped such long distances. And what better way to bolster the U.S. economy than by buying American goods?

  - Prairie Vodka is a family-owned company based in Minnesota that makes USDA certified organic and Orthodox Union certified kosher vodka in small batches. Even the distillation byproducts are used as biofuel or farm feed. 
  - Square One Vodka produces organic vodka on their California distillery with nothing but the purest elements—so pristine that according to them, the alcohol “obviates the need for multiple distillation.” I’m not sure what that means in practical terms, but it sounds mighty impressive. Anyway, just try their refreshingly tasty cucumber vodka, and we’ll forget that you used to drink that ridiculous raspberry stuff.

Local and organic rum may be a bit tougher to find, but at least you can be satisfied knowing that there are organic fair trade rum options. Papagayo Organic Rum is made in Paraguay from organic sugarcane. Moreover, its farmers are educated in sustainable organic agriculture and paid just wages. Papagayo offers white and spiced rum.

Good news, bourbon drinkers! Not only is bourbon American by definition, some of it even qualifies as green! Here’s to gettin’ lucky in (or with the help of) Kentucky.

  - The well-known and well-loved Maker’s Mark may not be organic, but they are devoted to sustainable production processes. Their facilities boast top-notch recycling and wastewater management systems, and they use waste byproducts for biofuel.  
   - The Wild Turkey Bourbon distillery boasts renewable resource wood burning boilers and doesn’t use GMO corn. So swig a shot of the Kickin’ Chicken tonight.

Gin has long been the lifesource for the Old Hollywood set, grandmothers, and anyone who thrills at the flair of ordering a gimlet at a 21st century bar. The good folks behind Juniper Green claims their gin the only organic variety available in the US, made with all-natural juniper berries, coriander, angelica root, and savory.

Beer

First, the bad news: organic hops are for the most part still imported as they aren’t widely available in the U.S. The good news is that the number of local microbreweries and organic beers has exploded of late, so it’s probably a good idea to check out your preferred beer purveyor’s selection. Some of the favorites:

  - Peak Organic Brewing Company, based out of Portland, ME has a variety of brews including pale ale, nut brown ale, amber ale, and maple oat ale, all of which are produced without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
  - Anheuser-Busch, while most certainly not a microbrewery, has, count them, two organic products: Wild Hop lager and Stone Mill pale ale. Furthermore, their breweries recycle over 99% of their solid waste and comprise the world’s biggest recyclers of aluminum cans. 
 - Lakefront Brewery’s Organic ESB has 100% certified organic ingredients. Just as important, their brewery tour in Milwaukee, WI is more fun, more intimate, and gets you way drunker than Miller’s tour.
  - Butte Creek Brewing from Chico, CA has at least four organic offerings: porter, IPA, pale ale, and pilsner. 

Wine

When shopping for wine, don't chain yourself to the term "organic." Look out for the somewhat inscrutable “biodynamic” label, which indicates a strict level of organic and holistic agriculture. Failing that, check for wines that are made with organic grapes or “sustainably produced.” A big plus when drinking organic or natural wine is that more of the unadulterated flavor will come through.

The Green Scene

If you want to eliminate the guesswork (or just any form of work) from your life, you can always let a mixologist make a tasty creation for you. Just visit one of the environmentally conscious bars and restaurants that are popping up these days. Admittedly this may not be possible if you don’t live in a large metropolitan area. Sorry Alaska, you’ll have to be satisfied with the political pork that Palin has secured for you.

New York residents can drop by Counter in the East Village for deliciously green martinis that don’t smack of crunchy granola. Chicagoans should check out the ecologically built Butterfly Social Club for all of their creative and organic concoctions. Californians won’t be outdone of course—San Francisco’s Elixir not only stocks myriad organic alcoholic beverages, they also aim to “green the bar industry.”

Finally, when your night of eco-friendly tippling comes to an end, you can rest peacefully in the knowledge that not only have you done something for the earth, but also thanks to the purity and lower levels of methanol in organic alcohol, you might not even get a hangover. That’s what evidence suggests in any case. Your liver will thank you.

 


 

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