Ingredients matter, and maybe even more so when it comes to spirits (and wine and beer), since bottles aren’t required to spell out what’s inside.
The best solution? These better-for-you brands that use ingredients like organic corn (instead of the pesticide-soaked GMO variety), fresh botanicals instead of artificial flavors, and pure distillation processes that don’t include blending agents and other additives. Some even use superfoods like quinoa and acai.
Here are five healthier liquors to mix into your festive cocktails (not with Diet Coke, please). Cheers! —Lisa Elaine Held
How’s this for impressive? Prairie makes vodka and gin using organic corn grown on three small family farms in Minnesota, plus other super clean ingredients like organic coriander, angelica, juniper, and lemon, and a purity-focused distillation process.
“We use the finest botanical oils we can find and blend them with a lot of care to get it just right,” master distiller Jim Aune says of Prairie’s gin, which has a surprisingly subtle, light, fresh flavor.
They also have a focus on sustainability. “After the harvest, a sustainable co-op converts leftover corncobs into fuel and returns the leftover distillers grains to local farmers for use as feed,” Aune explains. How’s that for holiday spirit? www.prairievodka.com
(Photo: Prairie Organic)
This Fair Trade Certified-brand is focused on treating farmers well—and the people behind it also care about your well-being.
Which is why they source organic quinoa (yes, quinoa!) from the Andean mountains, where it grows in nutrient-rich soil on volcanic rock, and organic sugar cane in Belize, before distilling it Charentais-style in France. It’s also guaranteed gluten-free.
One question: Since it’s made with a superfood, does it count as protein? www.fairspirits.com
(Photo: Fair Spirits)
While many of these natural-leaning liquors are new to the scene, Casa Noble is steeped in tradition. Named for a Mexican hacienda from the 1700s that was surrounded by blue agave plants, the company now cultivates more than 3,000 acres of the plants in the same area, where the soil is known to be the best in the world for tequila.
Want proof? The nearest city is called Tequila. Yup.
The company lets the plants mature for 10 to 14 years before hand harvesting them and then ferments them using indigenous yeast instead of the industrial variety, all of which is part of a purity-focused process that ends with a USDA-certified organic product. www.casanoble.com
(Photo: Casa Noble)
Greenbar Craft Distillery makes a slew of organic liquors (you’ve probably seen TRU Organic Vodka). And while it originally used traditional ingredients, the team switched to organics when they realized the ingredients produced better-tasting spirits.
Distilled from organic molasses, the spiced rum is full of real, fresh spices—like allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla. It’s literally screaming to be made into a hot toddy.
The only downside is that it can be tough to find on the East Coast (but easy in California). www.greenbar.biz
Okay, so Veev isn’t technically a liqueur, but it is made with fruit and is super sweet like one (just with the look and consistency of vodka).
The LA-based company makes the spirit with organic antioxidant-rich acai berries from Brazil (and other non-organic ingredients), so that it almost tastes like candy when sipped on its own.
And eco-conscious imbibers take note: Veev is a carbon-neutral company that send lots of profits back to Brazil to aid in rainforest preservation efforts. www.veevlife.com
(Photo: Chambers Street Wine)