Sustainable sippers, part 6: Tequila

Although produced in Jalisco, Mexico, 4 Copas Tequila is made from organic blue agave plants in a “green” distillery and certified organic by the USDA. Available in blanco, reposado, and anejo styles, 4 Copas also produces certified-organic agave nectar–a preferred alternative to simple syrup for mixing organic cocktails.

Benefits: Supports sustainable farming practices south of the border. Proceeds from sales of 4 Copas’ special-edition bottles also support preservation of endangered sea turtles in Baja California.

Drawbacks: Like other organic spirits, organic tequila is pricey–4 Copas Blanco starts is $57 for a 750-milliliter bottle. And organic tequila is still new to the green scene, so it can be especially hard to find. But more producers are coming on board: Last year, the 200-year-old, family-owned Casa Noble distillery in Jalisco, Mexico, where 4 Copas is produced, received organic certification from the USDA.

Sparkling Paloma

A Paloma is a traditional Mexican cocktail combining grapefruit juice and tequila. Use fresh grapefruits, which are in season, juicy, and abundant right now. This is an easy sipper to prepare and a change of pace from the best-known tequila cocktail: the margarita.

Kosher salt, for rimming the glass (optional)

2 ounces organic blanco or reposado tequila

2 ounces organic grapefruit juice (no pulp)

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Sparkling water

  1. Optional: Pour a thin layer of salt in a saucer. Moisten the rim of a highball glass with a damp towel. Place the rim of the glass in the salt, gently turning to help salt adhere to glass.
  2. Fill glass with crushed ice. Add tequila, juices, and nectar, stirring gently to combine. Top with sparkling water. Yield: 1 serving.

Also in this series:

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

Part 2: Wine

Part 3: Vodka and gin

Part 4: Mix with Care

Part 5: Sake

Sustainable sippers, part 5: Ah, sake

American producers are making some mighty fine versions of the traditional Japanese rice wine, including SakeOne Momokawa certified-organic line and Takara Sake’s Sho Chiku Bai Organic Nama. As with grape wines, offerings range from those made with organic ingredients–organic rice and/or koji (yeast)–to those that are certified organic.

Benefits: There are six styles of Momokawa, from lush, fruity Organic Junmai Ginjo to the traditional-style, minimally filtered Pearl. The sake is affordable enough (about $11 a 750-ml bottle of Momokawa and $7.50 for a 300-ml bottle of Organic Nama) to host a tasting for your friends.

Drawbacks: Berkeley, California-based Takara Sake’s product is made with certified organic rice from the nearby Sacramento Valley, but the rice wine itself is not certified organic. Also, it’s made in very small batches and may be hard to find.

Sake-jito

Inspired by the Cuban cocktail, this drink uses organic sake in place of traditional rum for a cocktail that’s refreshing and subtly sweet.

8 fresh mint leaves

2 teaspoons powdered sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 ounces organic sake

2 ounces sparkling water

1 mint sprig (optional)

  1. Place mint leaves in the bottom of a highball glass, add sugar and juice. Muddle (crush) with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon. Add sake; stir. Add crushed ice. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with mint sprig, if desired. Yield: 1 serving.

Also in this series:

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

Part 2: Wine

Part 3: Vodka and gin

Part 4: Mix with Care

Part 6: Tequila

Sustainable sippers, part 4: Mix with care

If you use expensive organic spirits in a cocktail, be sure the other ingredients are organic, too. Organic spirits generally don’t belong in a neon-green apple-tini, says Square One Vodka founder Allison Evanow. “Don’t shop for your mixers in the liquor aisle; shop for your mixers in the produce aisle.”

Use organic fruit purees as mixers. Mixologist Darryl Robinson, a k a DRMixologist, who creates organic concoctions for special events and at the Hudson Bar at New York’s Hudson Hotel, always selects peak-flavor, in-season fruits. “I’ll puree them and freeze them to use later.”

“Don’t shop for your mixers in the liquor aisle; shop for your mixers in the produce aisle.” Unless, of course, it’s a bottled mixer made with organic ingredients.

Choose organic sweeteners for cocktails. Robinson uses organic agave nectar instead of simple syrup made with white sugar. He also likes organic brown sugar or organic maple syrup for cocktails made with dark-colored spirits.

Balance the flavors. Organic spirits, like a botanical gin, can taste bolder than conventional booze, says Robinson, so you may need to adjust the amount of other ingredients. His secret ingredient: organic pineapple juice. “Just a splash, even in a cocktail that doesn’t call for it, can make a difference.”

If you do use a bottled mixer, make it an organic one, like modmix or Monin’s organic line.

Also in this series:

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

Part 2: Wine

Part 3: Vodka and gin

Part 5: Sake

Part 6: Tequila