Sustainable Sippers, part 3: Vodka and gin

Vodka and gin are two examples of small producers using organic ingredients to craft first-rate spirits. Some examples include vodkas from Square One,Highball Distillery, and Vodka14Juniper Green Organic London Dry Gin and TRU2 Gin are among the organic gins.

What makes it organic: Square One is crafted from 100% organic rye by DRinc., an Idaho-based distillery that has been certified organic since 2000. Highball Distillery’s certified-organic Elemental Vodka is produced in a wind-powered facility, also from organic grain. Vodka14 is crafted from organic grains and Rocky Mountain spring water. Made with 100% organic grain and botanical herbs in a distillery in Central London, Juniper Green is certified organic in the United States and United Kingdom, while Los Angeles-based TRU2 Gin is made with certified-organic grains and a complex blend of 14 botanicals.

Benefits: Organic vodka is flavorful, smooth, and subtly sweet. It’s nice to sip neat or in a simple cocktail. Organic grain byproducts from producing vodka may be recycled as animal feed. Organic gins are crafted with an intriguing mix of botanicals (TRU2’s blend includes lavendar, vanilla, and chamomile in addition to traditional juniper berries, for example), which makes for a complex, Old World-style spirit.

Drawbacks: Small-batch liquors, including organic vodka and gin, are expensive. Prices start at about $35 for a 750-ml bottle. Availability is limited, too. “You can go into a lot of states and not find any organic vodka,” says Gray Ottley, owner and chief marketing officer of DRinc.

Basil Gimlet

This cocktail, from Square One Vodka, is typical of what founder Allison Evanow calls “culinary cocktails,” which combine organic spirits with high-quality ingredients. Experiment with different varieties of basil–Evanow likes to use Thai or lemon basil, but any type will do. Square One’s Cucumber Vodka also works well in this recipe (so well, in fact, that this was my favorite evening cocktail last summer).

4-5 fresh basil leaves, torn

2 ounces organic vodka

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce light agave nectar

  1. Place basil in the cup of a cocktail shaker; muddle (crush) with a muddler or the back of wooden spoon. Add crushed ice, vodka, juice, and nectar; shake for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Yield: 1 serving.

Organic Tom Collins

A Tom Collins is a classic, simple cocktail, and an ideal way to showcase the complex botanical qualities that are the hallmark of many organic gins.

1 1/2 ounces organic gin

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon light agave nectar

Sparkling water

Lemon slice (optional)

  1. Combine gin, juice, and nectar in a highball glass. Add crushed ice, and top with sparkling water. Garnish with lemon slice, if desired. Yield: 1 serving.

Also in this series:

Part 1: Wine, beer, and spirits hop on the organic bandwagon

Part 2: Wine

Part 4: Mix with Care

Part 5: Sake

Part 6: Tequila