Slow Booze? Environmentally Friendly Spirits and Cocktails in a Slow Food World

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke

Weekly insight into the world of drinks with Paul Clarke from the Cocktail Chronicles and Imbibe magazine.


Spirits from Anchor Distillery, 4 Copas, and Square One.

The food blog world has been all a-flutter regarding the Slow Food Nation conference that took place in San Francisco over the weekend. In today’s Washington Post, Jason Wilson covers a side of the event that didn’t capture as much of the spotlight: the role of spirits and cocktails in a Slow Food world.

In “Claiming a Seat at the Slow Food Bar,” Wilson underscores how this segment of the culinary world may at first blush seem to be an odd fit with the movement’s ethos: “Distilleries, after all, can be decidedly un-green polluters. And their reputation has not been enhanced by several decades of using artificial flavors and colors.”

But Wilson points out that despite the prevalence of massive-scale, conglomerate-driven spirits in the marketplace, there are plenty of upstarts, big and small, that are trying to change the way the world drinks. And while wine and beer have rightfully been recognized as cultural traditions worthy of inclusion under the Slow Food tent, spirits and cocktails aren’t so different. Wilson quotes activist and author Raj Patel, who invokes one of the movement’s key philosophies: “Everyone in the world has a right to pleasure.”

Progressive pioneers in the spirit world include small distilleries such as the Bay Area’s Anchor Distilling, organic brands such as 4 Copas Tequila, and bars such as Elixir, which has achieved recognition as the first San Francisco bar to become a city-certified green business. And even larger brands are becoming more environmentally responsible; as Wilson notes, the Maker’s Mark bourbon distillery utilizes state-of-the-art recycling and wastewater treatment, and offsets up to 30 percent of its natural-gas use by employing anaerobic digestion that converts waste to bio-gas that can be used for energy.

Environmental concerns and socially responsible business practices are still an afterthought to many bars and distilleries, and the realm of mixology lags far behind the rest of the food world in this regard. But it’s encouraging to see companies and individuals starting to turn this around and make themselves good global citizens.

What’s your take? Is the idea of a mixing a sustainable martini antithetical to the Slow Food approach, or do spirits and mixology have a legitimate place at the Slow Food table? Let’s hear it.