With months to go before margarita and mojito season, it’s time to cozy up with a hot, spirit-spiked beverage. A simple way to help protect your health and the planet’s: pour spirits made from certified organic grains.
Better for your body: Made with organic corn and other grains (rather than conventionally grown, pesticide-laden GMO varieties), organic herbs and spices (rather than artificial flavors), and pure, often small-patch distillation processes that don’t include additives, organic spirits are both a tasty and healthy choice.
Environmentally friendly: The spirits industry uses vast amounts of resources (water, energy), produce a lot of waste, and—according to a recent Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable report–make an outsized carbon footprint. By contrast, “Organic spirits produced in the U.S. offer a lighter carbon footprint than imported spirits, and when you drink ‘organic,’ you support and promote more acres of pesticide-free cropland,” says Michael Nagy, owner and operator of the Raise your Spirits, an elite bartending, cocktail and beverage service in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Organic distilleries reduce their impact on the environment in a variety of ways. These include:
- choosing sustainable agriculture methods that enhance environmental quality and make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources
- using locally grown grains to reduce transportation costs
- making bottles and packaging from recycled materials
- streamlining the distillation process (the main contributor to traditional spirits’ carbon footprint)
- using the byproducts of distillation, like wastewater and solid waste
- buying energy from local wind farms or using wind-powered distilleries.
These 5 hot cocktails, all made with environmentally friendly spirits, are comfort in a cup—they’ll chase away the shivers for sure.
1. Michael Nagy’s Hot Buttered Rum
- 1 slice soft butter
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- To taste: ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, allspice, vanilla extract
- 2 ounces organic rum
- Hot water
Place butter, sugar and spices in mug; mix well. Add rum and hot water. Stir.
Organic alternative: CRUSOE Organic Rum (Spiced or Silver), produced by Los Angeles-based Greenbar Craft Distillery (Greenbar.biz). Greenbar makes white whiskey, gin, bitters, and vodka in straight, lemon, vanilla, and “garden” flavors.
Eco-friendly practices: Greenbar uses lightweight bottles and 100% recycled labels, and plants a tree for every bottle they sell.
2. Tres Café
- 1 1/2 ounce organic tequila
- 1 ounce fresh-brewed coffee
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar
- 1 ounce milk or half & half
Organic alternative: Come on, tequila has to come from Mexico. Among the best: 123 Organic Anejo (Tres), made by 123 Tequila (123Tequila.com) of Amatitan, Jalisco, Mexico. (The company crafts two other tequila varieties; all three are noted for their “impeccable bouquets and brilliant agave-induced flavors.”
Eco-friendly practices: 123 Tequila’s bottles are individually hand-blown from recycled glass, and the labels made from 100% recycled paper and printed with soy ink.
3. Michael Nagy’s Ginger Cosmo
- 1.5 ounce organic vodka
- 1/2 ounce FRUITLAB Ginger Liqueur (organic, produced by Greenbar Craft Distillery)
- 1/2 ounce Combier d’Orange
- 1/2 ounce white cranberry juice cocktail
- 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass; shake well. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with piece of ginger candy and/or lime slice, if you like.
Organic alternatives: SquareOne Organic Vodka (SquareOneOrganicSpirits.com), crafted with 100% organic American rye and water from the Teton Mountains of Wyoming. Named one of Oprah’s favorite things in 2015, SquareOne offers straight vodka, as well as flavors infused with the essences of organic botanicals: Bergamot, Basil, Botanical, and Cucumber.
Eco-friendly practices: SquareOne’s distillery partner receives 25 percent of its electrical power from wind generated power, generated locally on the eastern edge of the Snake River Plain. SquareOne also purchases carbon offset passes with Carbonfund.org and TerraPass.com for every 40,000 miles of air travel.
4. Michael Nagy’s Hot Apple Toddy
- 1 teaspoon honey (local preferred)
- 2 ounces organic whiskey
- Organic apple cider
- Optional garnishes: lemon wedge, cinnamon stick, and/or 2-3 whole cloves
Coat the bottom of an Irish coffee glass with organic honey. Add whiskey; fill with cider. Stir well. Garnish.
Organic alternative: Wigle Organic Whiskey (WigleWhiskey.com), which offers Rye, White Rye, Wheat, and White Wheat organic whiskeys. Named for a pioneering Pennsylvania distiller who helped spark the Whiskey Rebellion (and hung for it), Wigle also makes Landlocked, a rum/brandy hybrid made with Pennsylvania buckwheat honey, and a trio of ginevers (organic, Dutch-Style whiskey-based gins).
Ec-friendly practices: Wigle makes all its spirits grain-to-bottle, from local, organic ingredients.
5. Hot Mulled Wine
- 1 bottle organic wine, white or red
- 3 slices orange
- 5 whole cloves
- 1/2 cup honey (local preferred)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla bean, split horizontally
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Skim out spices and serve. (This recipe makes multiple servings—share it with friends!)
Organic alternative: While you might picture this classic made with red wine, white offers a surprising twist. Bonterra Organic Vineyards (http://www.bonterra.com) 2013 Viognier, made with grapes grown on organically certified farms in Mendocino County, California, tastes of apricot, peach, and a hint of spice.
Eco-friendly practices: To encourage biodiversity and enrich the soil naturally, Bonterra grows hundreds of other plants, including lavender, olives, in addition to grapes, and allows chickens and sheep to roam among the grape vines.