Better-for-the-Earth Booze? We’ll Drink to That

Hard alcohol is, well, hard on the planet, but these brands are making strides.

BY MACKENZIE CHUNG FEGAN | April 28, 2021

These days we’re cutting back on red meat, asking how far those out-of-season tomatoes have traveled, researching whether the sea bass on our plate is overfished. Yet how often do we pause to consider whether the whiskey in our Manhattan is environmentally friendly? Spirits are agricultural products; crops like corn, wheat, and potatoes are fermented and then distilled, transforming the bounty of a harvest into a product that will never go bad and—bonus—tastes pretty great with a splash of tonic. But distilling is a water- and energy-intensive process involving cycles of heating and cooling, and often the grains, fruits, and vegetables that make up these spirits are industrially farmed, with more attention paid to yield than to biodiversity or regenerative farming practices.

Some distillers are committing to finding a better way by partnering with local farmers, using alternative sources of energy to power their distilleries, and keeping their tasting rooms cozy using heat recycled from their stills. “There is no silver bullet,” says Claire Sprouse, owner of Brooklyn’s Hunky Dory and an advocate for sustainability in the bar industry, “and even small efforts are worth celebrating.” But, she qualifies, while many independent craft distillers make environmentally conscious choices organically and out of necessity, major changes are needed to transform the industry as a whole. Below, some examples of brands both big and small that are taking steps to make booze more sustainable.

Novo Fogo Tanager

Brazil’s forests have been decimated by aggressive logging, leaving many native tree species—including some that have traditionally been used for cachaça barrels—endangered. In partnership with botanists and biodiversity experts, cachaça brand Novo Fogo is raising rare Brazilian hardwood seedlings that will be replanted in Brazil’s Atlantic forest.

Better-for-the-Earth Booze? We’ll Drink to That
Bon Appétit | April 28, 2021