The spirits industry might lag behind the food world a bit when it comes to embracing a more eco-friendly approach to its craft, but the tide is now thankfully starting to turn. A new wave of distillers are working diligently to put “green” spirits on the map, quietly educating tipplers about sustainability with each bottle they produce. And while both gin and cognac are making serious strides in the category, the spirit that’s leading the charge toward a more ecologically sound future is vodka.
Green vodka, made with organic ingredients and using all-natural resources, is popping up across the globe with increasing frequency, calling upon a region’s unique resources to create products that are simultaneously distinctive and mindful. Italian vodka distiller Punzoné makes use of organic wheat from its home in Piemonte. North Carolina’s TOPO distillery uses only ingredients from within state lines and is currently the only USDA-certified organic distillery in the Southern U.S. In rural Texas, an organic rice-based vodka is in the works, made from long-grain white rice that’s grown, more or less, on-site.
The category has even gotten a boost from the queen herself, Oprah Winfrey, who recently gave away Square One vodka, which comes in a range of delectable flavors like basil and cucumber, as one of her Favorite Things.
When you’re ready to move beyond Oprah-approved, these are eight diverse green vodkas worth seeking out, ensuring that with each sip you’re also enjoying the taste of environmental responsibility.
Crafted in the heart of California wine country using a mixture of the region’s grape varietals, Hanson of Sonoma ($33) has become an envelope-pushing role model within the world of sustainable small-batch vodka. The grapes, which are of course USDA certified, bring a sweet, deeply fruity note to the spirit while maintaining a buoyancy that lends itself to sipping neat. Hanson also offers a wide range of infused vodkas made with organic fruits and flavors that are free from any sort of syrup, concentrate or flavoring, including ginger and habanero.
Schramm ($50) is currently one of the only potato vodkas on the market to hold the coveted green status and has been distilled using use five varietals of organic Canadian potatoes since 2009. What’s more, Schramm, made by British Columbia’s Pemberton Distillery, is committed to using culls (potatoes that are not fit for supermarket sales) as a part of their production in an effort to reduce food waste. Distillers blend in some fresh spring water from the nearby Coast Mountains to create the final, impressive product: a spirit that’s both silky and of the earth.
Iceland is a country that’s been blessed with an extraordinary number of natural resources. Whether you’re looking for waterfalls, volcanos, hot springs or glaciers—you name it—Iceland’s got it. And thankfully, it’s now using some of this bounty for the greater good: making vodka. With a distillation process that’s powered by geothermal energy and filtered through lava rocks using a copperhead still, Reyka ($30) is the epitome of purity and an homage to Iceland’s beauty in a glass.
Water is at the very heart of every part of Leaf ($18), and the Michigan-based company has gone to great lengths to seek out a range of the country’s most untouched H2O. Offering one variant created using Rocky Mountain mineral water and another featuring glacial water from Alaska, the company focuses on the vodka’s liquid point-of-origin. And does it make a difference? Absolutely. Five-times distilled, both versions are remarkable and are some of the strongest organic vodka bargains on the market.
The first USDA-certified vodka in Washington State (and a champion of other sustainable distillers across the state), Bainbridge ($30) draws inspiration from its lush Puget Sound location and holds an unmatched reverence for nature, from the mountains to the marshes. The vodka’s grains are sourced directly from small organic farmers in the region and are considered storied estate grains, with histories that span decades, if not centuries. The result is a vodka that’s simultaneously plush on the palate and clean, with lemony hints on the nose.
Green Mountain has been a pioneer within the organic distilling scene since 2002, helping to lead the charge toward greener spirits from its home base in Vermont. Made from 100 percent Certified Organic grain (provided by a family farmer-owned cooperative, naturally), this vodka ($25) goes through a six-time distillation process that has been certified organic by the renowned Vermont Organic Farmers. The company also boasts two (also organic) flavored vodkas, lemon and orange, which both possess a refreshing, bright crispness.
With a name like Snow Queen, a spirit has to be downright regal in order impress. But never fear, loyal subjects: This vodka will make you bow down. Crafted using organic wheat and spring water from the Alatau Mountains in Kazakhstan, Snow Queen ($23) has a smoothness on the palate that’s almost velvety, making it one of the few vodkas with enough notes of inherent sweetness to pair well with dessert. The five-time distillation process also makes it worthy of sipping straight—no need to share the throne with any other ingredients.
Ocean ($30) is a vodka that truly tastes like its terroir: herbal, buoyant and with surprisingly tropical notes on that tongue speak to its island origin. Hailing from Maui, Ocean is crafted using organic sugar cane and “deep ocean” mineral water sourced from 3,000 feet below the Kona Coast. No GMOS, herbicides or pesticides are involved at any step of the distillation process, and the company is so committed to reprocessing materials that the glass used for bottling is even recycled. Bonus? Ocean is naturally gluten-free.