Even the Tequila Tierras is organic in this margarita at Bibi'z in Westwood.
Even the Tequila Tierras is organic in this margarita at Bibi'z in Westwood.
Posted: Tuesday December 13, 2011
Organic Spirits: Trend is catching up to hard liquor
By Kara Yorio of The Record

The organics movement has hit the bar.

"People are eating organically," says Warren Bobrow of cocktailwhisperer.com. "People want to eat well. They want to know about the provenance of every piece of lettuce that goes in their mouth. They want to know where their cheeses come from. They want to know where their meats are raised. Why should what they drink be any less important?"

Even when people moved beyond food and sought organic wines, they rarely connected the organic dots to hard liquors.

That's changing. According to the Organic Trade Association's 2011 survey, organic distilled spirits totaled $8 million in sales in 2010 in the United States. That's an 8 percent increase over the year before, although nowhere near the $169 million in organic wine sales for the same year.

More and more organic spirits are popping up in North Jersey liquor stores like ShopRite Wine and Spirits, and Total Wine & More in River Edge.

"Organic spirits are a big thing now," says Felix Ayala of Total Wine & More.

The store carries a few organic vodkas, including Froggy B and Prairie. Customers had been asking for organic wine and beer, and now it has "bleeded over into spirits," according to Ayala.

Organic spirits are being sold at area restaurants as well, like Bibi'z in Westwood, where the cocktail menu includes an organic margarita, peach martini and Bloody Mary.

"Everybody wants to have a drink, but who could think that there's a way to do it [organically]," says owner Ida Assaf, who stresses that the restaurant's focus on using sustainable, organic ingredients extends to the drinks they serve.

Many customers who come in are not aware there was such a thing as organic vodka or tequila.

Like non-organic spirits, taste and quality can vary. Assaf and her bartender rave about the Tequila Tierras they serve.

Other area establishments offer organic spirits too. At Chakra in Paramus and Park West Tavern in Ridgewood, organic liquors mixed with regular brands. Chakra also uses Tru organic vodka.

"We're a big fan of organic and sustainable farming," says Evelyn Ciszak of Chakra. "We definitely support the movement, but there's just not a lot at the moment."

Lack of supply is one issue. The other is the higher price, a common refrain among frustrated customers who want to make the healthier food choice but can't afford to.

"They are of high quality and they tend to be quite costly," says Ciszak.

Issaf agrees, but believes the cost is worth it. She considers it a good investment, even as she tries to keep her organic drink prices down, which she says has her taking a hit in profits.

"In the future, more and more people will be interested in that," she says of organic cocktails. "And then they'll seek us."

Options on organic mixers

Combining your organic liquor with preservative-rich mixers sort of misses the larger point, doesn't it?

Mix your drink with organic juice, which is relatively easy to find. You no longer need to visit a health or specialty food store. Organic fruit can be used to make juice as well.

For those who want the organic option but don't want to have to mix the organic ingredients themselves, there are also organic ready-made mixers available. Modmix has a line that includes mojito and pomegranate cosmopolitan mixers.

Other companies, like Powell and Mahoney, have mixers they call "all-natural" that use some organic ingredients.

Tierras Organic Margarita

2 ounces Tequila Tierras Blanco

1 1/2 ounces organic lime juice

1 ounce Tierras Organic Agave Nectar

Splash of club soda

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.

Strain into an ice-filled margarita glass.

Garnish with lime and serve.

Source: castlebrandsinc.com

E-mail: yoriok@northjersey.com