When it comes to living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, the first place we often start is our kitchen. This means if we buy, we tend to buy less. And when we do shop, we try to shop local, organic, and from ethically driven retailers. But when it comes to being a more conscious consumer in the kitchen, we tend to forget one particular product: alcohol.
Unlike most produce these days, finding eco-friendly cocktail options still requires doing a little research. Here at Regenerative Travel, we’ve taken the time to do the research for you. It’s likely the inside of your fridge has already gotten an organic makeover. Isn’t it about time your liquor cabinet got a sustainable upgrade too? Hone your at-home bartending skills with these eight alcohols doing happy hour the sustainable way.
1. Nc’Nean – Single Malt Scotch Whisky & Aged Botanicals
Named after the Queen of Spirits in Gaelic, Nc’Nean is a sustainable distillery making some of the most thoughtfully crafted whiskey in Scotland. Much like its namesake, Nc’Nean is a protector of nature. The chemical-free distillery runs solely on renewable energy and bottles all its products in 100% post-consumer recycled glass. In 2019 alone the distillery was able to divert 99.9% of all its waste from the landfill by using its pot ale byproduct as fertilizer and draff (leftover barley) to feed its livestock.
Not only a zero-waste distillery, the Scottish whisky maker is also certified organic, using only organically farmed barley and handpicked native herbs in its products. While Nc’Nean is best known for its rich single malt scotch, its aged botanicals flavored with foraged Scottish plants are a delectable triumph all their own.
2. Novo Fogo – Cachaça
For those who have never had cachaça, organic distiller Novo Fogo describes it as ‘rum’s older Brazilian cousin.’ Cachaça (Ka-SHAH-sa) is a distilled spirit made from freshly pressed sugarcane. The juice is combined with yeast and fermented to produce a deliciously sweet and refreshing drink enjoyed throughout Brazil. Novo Fogo makes its cachaças with sugarcane it harvests from its onsite organic farm at the base of the Marumbi Mountain. The distillery and its accompanying farm are both located at the heart of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, the world’s second-largest Biosphere Reserve.
Inspired by its lush natural surroundings, Novo Fogo is a zero-waste distillery made up of an all-women distilling team. They primarily age their cachaça in repurposed American oak barrels that previously held bourbon. However, their Two-Woods series is finished in indigenous, legally sourced Brazilian wood barrels and offers a quintessentially Brazilian flavor. Add some lime, sugar, and ice to make a caipirinha, the official drink of Brazil and unofficial drink of your next summer vacation.
3. Empress 1908 – Gin
If ever there was a liquor made for entertaining, it’s Empress 1908. The botanical-infused gin is a collaboration between Victoria Distillers and the legendary Fairmont Empress Hotel in British Columbia. Handcrafted in small-batch copper-pot stills, Empress 1908 uses butterfly pea blossoms to establish its signature indigo hue. No artificial colors or stabilizers needed. Simply add citrus or tonic water to watch it change from a rich blue to an effervescent pink. Just as incredible as its taste is the complex system that produces it.
This delightfully aromatic liquor is created in a unique closed-loop system between Empress’s stills and the neighboring Sidney Pier Hotel’s geothermal system. This process saves energy by recapturing heat from hot water, which is then used to warm the hotel during the colder months and supply cold water back to the distillery to be used again. If that isn’t impressive enough, Empress has even established an Environmental Committee they call their ‘Green Team,’ which meets monthly to evaluate and monitor its eco-initiatives.
4. Reyka – Vodka
Reyka has to be one of the most fascinating liquors on the market today. The humble distiller is located in the small coastal town of Borgarnes, about 50 miles outside Reykjavík. Though Iceland is not particularly famous for vodka, its pristine environment makes it uniquely well-suited to produce the staple liquor. In fact, Borgarnes’ air is so clean that its CO2 levels are actually falling. But what really makes this vodka so special is, of all things, lava.
Reyka sources its water from a glacial spring that runs over a 4,000-year-old lava field, making it some of the purest water in the world. The distillery itself is even powered by renewable geothermal energy from underground volcanoes. Reyka uses one of the world’s only remaining Carter-Head stills. Thanks to its remarkable purity, the alcohol only needs to pass through the still once. They then use lava to filter the vodka once it has been distilled for a cleaner, crisper drinking experience. The result is an exceptionally smooth taste flavored only by the distinct terroir of Iceland.
5. Dulce Vida – Tequila
Choosing a tequila these days can be a little tricky as blue agave shortages have caused a disruption throughout much of the industry. With this in mind, it is best to opt for an environmentally conscious distiller like Dulce Vida. Meaning the ‘Sweet Life’ in Spanish, Dulce Vida grows its own agave using sustainable farming practices in partnership with the local community. The organic agave is harvested after eight years and goes through a meticulous distilling process. All byproducts are then repurposed as soil-enriching fertilizer or recaptured as energy to power the facility.
Made exclusively in small batches to ensure the highest quality, Dulce Vida’s tequila reposado and añejo are aged in American bourbon whiskey barrels to impart both color and flavor to the tequila. Flavors include the traditional tequila trio (blanco, reposado, and añejo), which come in both 80 and 100 proof as well as an array of fruit-infused tequilas like lime, grapefruit, and pineapple jalepeño. For those looking for the complete package, Dulce Vida also makes ready-to-drink cocktails.
6. Flor de Caña – Rum
As the world’s first spirit to reach carbon neutral status and fair trade certification, Flor de Caña is one of the original pioneers of sustainable distilling. Founded 130 years ago by Alfredo Francisco Pellas Canessa, Flor de Caña distills its premium rum at the base of the San Cristóbal Volcano, the tallest and most active volcano in Nicaragua. The volcanic landscape and nutrient-rich natural surrounding give Flor de Caña its unmistakable flavor. Amazingly, the company has remained a family affair for five generations, creating exceptional rum in the process.
With a history as rich as Flor de Caña’s, they have the advantage of offering light rums from as young as four to the ultra-luxurious 30-year-old bottle and everything in between. For more than a decade, the premium rum producer has operated exclusively on renewable energy. The company is also notoriously good to its workers, offering free medical services to employees and their families since 1958 and free education to the children of its employees since 1913.
7. Yobo Soju – Soju
It may surprise you that the best-selling alcohol in the world for four consecutive years pre-pandemic was not vodka, rum, or whiskey, but soju. Traditionally made from rice, this Korean liquor has rapidly grown in popularity over the past decade. Created by Korean-American entrepreneur Carolyn Kim, Yobo Soju gives the notoriously harsh liquor a delicious and eco-friendly facelift.
Unlike most traditional sojus in the market today, Yobo contains no sulfites, preservatives, additives, or sugars. The colorless liquor is handcrafted in small batches on the shores of Seneca Lake in the New York Finger Lakes region. Yobo makes their soju from locally sourced and sustainably farmed Catawba grapes, yeast, and the clear waters of the Finger Lakes. The entire process is done with no automation, gifting a refreshingly sweet liquor that marries Korean and American culture in one delicious drink.
8. Seedlip – Distilled Non-alcoholic Beverage
Ever want to enjoy the taste of a refreshing cocktail without the actual alcohol, but don’t feel like ordering a Shirley Temple? You’re not alone. The bar industry is seeing a growing demand for sophisticated zero-proof options for adults.
Insert Ben Branson. Inspired by an old alchemist’s recipe book, Branson created Seedlip, the first-ever distilled non-alcoholic beverage brand. Each thoughtfully sourced ingredient is distilled individually in a copper pot, then combined to create the spirit’s three distinct flavors: Grove 42, Spice 94, and Garden 108.
Like most spirits, Seedlip is best served with tonic or as the base for a non-alcoholic cocktail. Its array of citrus-forward, aromatic, and herbaceous drinks makes it the ideal substitute for when you’re looking to avoid that next-day hangover. And in addition to helping establish credibility in the ‘no & low’ alcohol category, Seedlip has also committed to sustainable packaging as well as promising net zero emissions by 2022.