Five Of The Best Ethical Alcoholic Drinks
I’ve worked as a drinks producer and a bartender. I like to use seasonal ingredients and work with brands that have traceable production and consider the environment. Over the past three years, I’ve seen top bars ban ice, plastic straws disappear and a keen focus on reduction in waste. It takes drinks brands a bit longer to react because they have to source ingredients, establish and refine production processes and organise distribution, but times are changing. Major players such as Absolut, Bombay Sapphire and Ketel One are all addressing alternative sources of energy, carbon offsetting, waste reduction and more direct relationships with primary producers. Here are five other ethical offerings.
Fair Juniper Gin
Fair has a whopping 10 drinks in its portfolio. Its mantra is “Think human, drink fair”. I am a huge fan of its gin. It takes Fairtrade and organically produced ingredients from co-operatives in Uzbekistan and Kerala and adds them to its French-distilled gin, which is made from quinoa seeds grown by producers in the Altiplano region of South America. Fair is committed to organic growing practices, traceable chains of production and higher margins for growers. Expect forward notes of juniper, cardamom and coriander. This is a very balanced gin with a rich earthiness.
Abelha Organic Cachaça
If you’re a fan of Brazil's national cocktail, the Caipirinha, then look no further than Abelha. These guys make a tremendously good small-batch cachaça using organic sugar cane from Rio de Contas in the valleys of Chapada Diamantina in Brazil. Production is overseen by Mr Marcos Vaccaro, an expert in organic agriculture. It produces two distinct styles, Gold and Silver. Abelha Silver is rested for six months and is a full bodied affair with notes of fresh sugar cane and plantain. It has a moreish flavour with a wonderful raw and vegetal expression. The Abelha Gold is aged for three years in casks made of garapeira wood, a Brazilian ash, which adds a honey and spice character.
I first tasted this vermouth while researching my book, A Spirited Guide To Vermouth. It’s a curious product from William Grant & Sons, owner of a portfolio of drinks brands and spirits, including Hendrick’s Gin. This vermouth is infused with cascara, the waste fruit of the coffee bean. Apparently, after the bean is extracted, this waste product is discarded to the tune of a billion tonnes every year. Don’t expect a run-of-the-mill vermouth. This one has pronounced notes of coffee and chocolate along with red fruit and warm spice. It makes a mean boulevardier cocktail (that’s a whisky-based negroni).
New Dawn Traders Rum
New Dawn Traders is seeking to inspire a new maritime culture around sailing cargo ships. It has teamed up with the schooner Tres Hombres and East London Liquor Company to bring two rums across the Atlantic to the UK. Its message is clear – “buy less, buy better, buy local, by sail” – and it is offering products of exceptional provenance as well as a minimal carbon footprint. The two styles are a light agricole rum from the Canaries and a rich 19-year-old one from the Dominican Republic. Both are bottled by East London Liquor Company in handmade ceramic flagons from Clay Collective in Hackney.
Everleaf Bittersweet Aperitif
Everleaf is a sophisticated alternative to alcohol in the same vein as trail-blazing drinks brand Seedlip. Founder Mr Paul Mathew is motivated by a sustainable approach to sourcing and a transparent relationship with producers. I place this delightful little drink in the French style of aperitif. Think of Suze herbal liqueur and you’re somewhere close. It’s a symphony of flavour, heaps of fruit, pear and orange, and a little sherbety. It tops out with a bitter gentian-led finish. The ingredients listed include voodoo lily and acacia. The acacia responds with low viscosity in water, which adds a smooth mouthfeel to drinks. It is excellent lengthened with tonic water and drunk as a long aperitif.