How often do you think about where your alcohol comes from? We get rum from sugar cane, beer from various sources of grains, tequila and mezcal from the agave plant and vodka from just about any starchy source. That’s the obvious answer. But where do the sugar cane, grains, agave plants or starchy sources come from?
I found a paper discussing the sustainability of agave farming – peasant farming vs mass produced. While the paper is theoretical only, it raises an important point: With the focus on localization and sustainable farming in other parts of the food industry, is it possible to also support sustainability within the liquor industry while still meeting consumer demand?
Many coffee roasters maintain a relationship with the farmers they buy their beans from; craft breweries often use local barley and other grains in the manufacture of their products; and other premium brands, like Belvedere Vodka, say they source their grains locally as well. And yet, just because it’s sourced locally, doesn’t mean the initial product has been farmed sustainably. Is it a local farm? Or a field owned by a large company? What’s the relationship between the farmer and the liquor manufacturer? Do we care if we’re drinking fair trade alcohol?
I may be headed down a rabbit hole, but I’d like very much to know. And so, I’m starting to ask the questions.
My advice for the time being, if small batch/craft spirits exist for your particular drink of choice, buy those first. If they’re not readily available for you, then go for the bigger, familiar names and ask as many questions of your local rep as you can.
Have any suggestions on sustainable alcohol? Leave them in the comments below!