Organic spirits? The concept might give some people pause, since many equate “organic” with “healthful.”
While no one is suggesting that vodka be classified a health food, it’s entirely within reason to apply organic principles to spirits. A growing number of distillers are making products using renewable resources, or ingredients that aren’t subjected to conventional pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. The end result—more mindful drinking.
Although organic versions of virtually every spirit exist, vodka seems to be the category with the most—and the best—products. Bottlings from Crop Organic and Square One scored well across the board, including a number of excellent flavored vodkas (tomato, basil, and Meyer lemon); we also had strong showings among Tequila, gin, Cognac and a broad range of liqueurs.
Given the range of high-quality products reviewed this month—held to the same tasting standards as non-organic products—it’s now entirely possible to have your favorite cocktail made with environmentally-sensitive ingredients. No wonder so many bars have chosen to embrace the “farm-to-table” move-ment, mixing those spirits with agave-based sweeteners, seasonal fruits and local herbs.
If purchasing or consuming organic spirits matters to you, don’t let a lack of USDA or other certification deter you, advises Bianca Miraglia, who produces the Brooklyn, NY-based Uncouth Vermouth line, a lineup of excellent, small-batch vermouths. She often seeks out organic herbs, spices and other flavorings for her artisan bottlings.
“Not everyone can afford ‘organic’ certi-fication,” she warns. “For many, it’s about the spirit of the practices.”
Another interesting side note: many (but not all) of the spirits that self-identify as “organic” provide a list of ingredients, often flagging the grains and botanicals, etc. that are organic. This is an anomaly as ingredients are almost never listed on spirits labels.
In just a few short years, the range of organic spirits has widened considerably. They may be good for your conscience—but we’re happy to report that a great many are good for your cocktail, too.
November’s Top 6 Organic Spirits
96 Fruitlab Hibiscus Organic Liqueur (USA; Greenbar Distillery, Los Angeles, CA). With its garnet hue, concentrated raspberry jamminess and just the faintest floral suggestion on the finish, this is a delicious way to splash color and fruit into bubbly drinks and other cocktails. It’s nicely sweet on the palate, and balanced with just enough tartness to punch it up.
abv: 20% Price: $29
95 Crop Organic Tomato Vodka (USA; Crop Harvest Earth Co., Princeton, NY). Though clear in the bottle, this unique flavored vodka offers a bold, zesty, appetizing tomato aroma. On the palate, it’s more tomato water than tomato juice—light, breezy and mouthwatering. What a treat for lighter variations of a bloody mary, or other garden-inspired cocktails. USDA-certified organic.
abv: 35% Price: $30
95 Foro Extra Dry Vermouth (Italy; Chatham Imports, New York, NY). Made with organic Trebbiano grapes, this light, crisp, boldly aromatic vermouth makes the prospect of fully organic martinis a reality. Look for a touch of lemon, loads of dried herbs, an intriguing saline note and an almost effervescent feel on the tongue. Best Buy.
abv: 18% Price: $13/1 L
95 Snap Liqueur (USA; Art in the Age, Philadelphia, PA). Like gingerbread in a glass, this nut-colored liqueur is laced with warm, appealing baking spices, brown sugar and faint hazelnut flavors. Consider for a digestif, dessert pairing, or to add mouthwatering spice and sweetness to drinks. Certified organic by the USDA and Oregon Tilth.
abv: 40% Price: $33
94 Froggy Vodka (France; WJ Deutsch & Sons, White Plains, NY). This whimsically-named, wheat-based vodka is made in the Cognac region of France and is certified organic by Ecocert SA. Clear and very bright in color, it’s relatively neutral on the palate with a clean, citrusy touch on the finish. It has all the right attributes for super-chilled vodka martinis or gimlets. Best Buy.
abv: 40% Price: $19
94 Ransom Dry Vermouth (USA; Ranson Wine Company and Distillery, Sheridan, OR). Made from organic wine and mostly organic botanicals, this straw-colored dry vermouth layers notes of golden raisins, citrus peel, cardamom and vanilla on a base of fresh apple and pear. Recommended for classic cocktails, or to sip alongside a cheese plate.
abv: 18.4% Price: $32