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The Green Life: Worth a Shot: Eco-Liquors

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December 23, 2010

Worth a Shot: Eco-Liquors

Forget the menudo. The next time you plan to party hard, mitigate the morning-after misery by limiting your intake to these sustainable spirits. The planet, if not your liver, will thank you.

(The liquor experts below were asked to abstain from recommending any firewater with which they have a professional affiliation.)


DEAN PHILLIPS is the fifth-generation president of Minneapolis's Phillips Distilling Company. He oversees the production of more than 70 brands, including Phillips Union Whiskey, Trader Vic's, and the award-winning Prairie Organic Vodka, a co-op brand in which more than 900 Minnesota farmers hold a stake.

"My favorite new ecofriendly spirit is Death's Door White Whisky from Madison, Wisconsin. Founder Brian Ellison sources organic wheat from Washington Island farmers, reuses hot water from the still to heat mash, and supplies his spent mash to feed local dairy cows. He's also a founding member of the environmental nonprofit 1% for the Great Lakes. The outstanding whiskey rests in uncharred oak barrels before bottling and offers tequila and sake notes on the bouquet. Drink it neat, on the rocks, or as the base for unique cocktails." $35 for 750 mL


H. JOSEPH EHRMANN, known as "H," has been a bartender for almost two decades. In 2003, he restored one of San Francisco's oldest saloons and reopened it as Elixir. The bar has since become America's first to achieve a Green Business certification and has been listed among Food and Wine's top 100 U.S. bars. In 2010, Nightclub and Bar magazine named him bartender of the year.

"Del Maguey is a family of mezcals made in remote villages in Oaxaca, Mexico, by a collection of distiller-farmers. They offer enticing smoky and floral aromas, a rich and creamy mouthfeel, and sip-after-sip palate satisfaction. My favorite is San Luis del Rio. I spent a week visiting these villages as the company was going through organic certification, and I observed the painstaking attention to detail by eighth- and ninth-generation distillers who do everything by hand. Truly some of the finest distillates in the world." $69 for 750 mL


PAUL ABERCROMBIE is the author of Organic, Shaken and Stirred: Hip Highballs, Modern Martinis and Other Totally Green Cocktails (Harvard Common Press, 2009). He lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about cocktails, wine, and travel for the Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast, and other publications.

"Gin has come a long way from Prohibition bathtubs. Among the better organic brands is Juniper Green Organic Gin, distilled in central London. Despite its distinct flavor — a riot of organic juniper berries, coriander, angelica root, and savory — it won't overpower a cocktail's other ingredients." About $25 for 750 mL


Chicago-based writer EDWARD HAMILTON has been visiting distilleries throughout the Caribbean for 20 years. He runs the website Ministry of Rum and wrote The Complete Guide to Rum: An Authoritative Guide to Rums of the World (Triumph, 1997).

"Nicaragua's Flor de Cana is the most environmentally friendly distillery I've ever visited. They recycle and reuse 100% of their byproducts. Spent yeast from the distillation process is converted into ethanol that powers the distillery and into fertilizer and animal feed. The sugar mill that makes the molasses generates up to 30% of Nicaragua's electricity, reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil. The Grand Reserve 7 Year has notes of raw cocoa, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and some vanilla and pecan flavors in the finish." About $25 for 750 mL


COURTNEY REUM is the founder of VeeV Acai Spirit, the world's first certified carbon-neutral spirits company and the best-selling new U.S. liquor brand in 2010. The Chicago native donates $1 per bottle sold to rainforest-preservation groups.

"I enjoy Square One Organic Vodka. The rich, bread-like taste is born out of organically grown rye — not mass-produced corn or potatoes — and a certified-organic fermentation process developed especially for Square One. It is this attention to quality at the production level — rather than resorting to chemical flavoring or high-tech tinkering — that makes Square One stand out from the rest." About $35 for 750 mL

--compiled by Avital Binshtock

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