Gin-gardium Leviosa: Celebs Shake Up Spirits Sector with Plant-Powered Liquor Brands
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In a world packed with celebrity spirits, some are spotlighting sustainability with innovative plant-based alcohol offerings, from zero-waste to zero-ABV. Here are three of our just-launched faves.
If it feels like there are way too many celebrity-backed or -owned alcohol brands, that’s because there are. There’s practically a new one every month. Just this year, we’ve seen Blake Lively launch Betty Booze, Jennifer Lopez unveil Delola, Jason Momoa introduce Meili, Matthew McConaughey partner with his wife for Pantalones, and Michael Bublé expand his Christmas empire with Fraser & Thompson.
It’s an oversaturated market, but some are cutting through the noise to offer more sustainable booze for fans, given it’s an industry linked to “water and food insecurity, environmental degradation, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and greenwashing”, according to one report.
It’s not just you that alcohol leaves thirsty – liquor itself is thirsty: a 500ml bottle of beer uses around 148 litres of water, while a single 125ml glass of wine needs 110 litres. An average person uses around 142 litres of water a day, to put that into some context.
There’s also a waste problem. In the US, 70% of wine bottles end up in landfill, while half of all alcohol containers are thrown away and not recycled in the UK. Meanwhile, for every litre of tequila, about 5kg of pulp and 10-15kg of acidic waste are left over, both of which can contaminate soil and water supplies in production regions.
So as we push towards a more sustainable and ethical food system, here are three celebrity-led alcohol brands launched just this year that pull focus on these very themes.
Woody Harrelson: Holistic Spirits Co.
Described as the world’s first plant-powered spirits company, Now You See Me actor Woody Harrelson teamed up with health and wellness entrepreneur Amy Holmwood to launch Holistic Spirits Co.
The brand debuted gin and vodka flavoured with botanicals and positioned as superfood-containing, better-for-you drinks. “No alcohol will ever be healthy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be more conscious of what we’re putting in our bodies while we enjoy spirits, in whatever setting that may be,” says Holmwood.
The Origen vodka’s base spirit is made from organic white wheat, while the Harmony gin is made from organic corn, and both are infused with artichoke leaves, elderberries, green tea leaves, and muscadine grapes. The latter additionally makes use of botanicals like juniper berries, coriander seed, hyssop, lemon peel, lime peel, angelica root and orris root. At 35% ABV, neither spirit has any artificial colours and flavourings or added sugars.
“For years I’ve wondered who was going to come along and put my favourite superfoods into spirits,” says Harrelson a long-time vegan and star of nature documentaries like Kiss the Ground and its forthcoming sequel. He has also invested in plant-based meat and seafood brands Wicked Kitchen, Abbot’s Butcher and Good Catch. “I think it’s a marvellous thing that Amy came up with, and I admire her sense of purpose. It was a no-brainer to get involved from the start.” (Holmes, who has degrees in biotech and nutrition, developed the recipe in 2022.)
Both the spirits are distilled using what the company describes are “sustainable initiatives and green, cutting-edge” techniques. Moreover, the Holistic Spirits Co. has been accepted into the Positive Luxury Butterfly Accelerator Programme, which helps innovative sustainable businesses scale up through financial aid and tailored support.
Lewis Hamilton: Almave
Another vegan celebrity with a strong investor portfolio, Formula One legend Lewis Hamilton teamed up with Montelobos Mezcal and Alma Finca maker Casa Lumbre to unveil a blue agave tequila – with a non-alcoholic twist.
Hamilton, whose investments include the popular plant-based fast-food chain Neat Burger and Chilean alt-protein startup NotCo, launched Almave with Casa Lumre co-founder Iván Saldaña to cater to the growing number of teetotal and sober-curious youth consumers. In the UK, for example, over a quarter of 16- to 25-year-olds are teetotallers, while the number of college-age Americans who don’t drink has risen from 20% to 28% in the last decade.
Almave claims to be the only company to be using blue agave to make alcohol-free tequila. It’s made using the same raw materials and in the same part of Mexico, but eschews the fermentation process that turns the liquid into alcohol. For this reason, Almave’s liquor can’t legally be called tequila, and is instead referred to as a blue-agave spirit (much like labelling conventions prohibit alt-milk manufacturers from using dairy-related terms).
Regardless, the company promises the “same distinct agave taste and character”, making a product “true to the land, true to the plant”. There are two variants: the Almave Ámbar, which boasts notes of roasted blue agave, sweet caramel and toasted wood, and the Almave Blanco, which is characterised by balanced sweetness and acidity.
Emma Watson: Renais Gin
Ever the goody-two-shoes, Hermoine has stayed true to her dentist parents with a spirit that’s better for your teeth than others. It also happens to be better for the planet.
But it’s not just her fictional parents she’s paying homage to. Emma Watson’s family has deep ties to French winemaking, and her father owns an award-winning wine company called Domaine Watson. While she may have been absent from our screens for a few years (rumour has it she’ll be back soon), Watson has been busy cooking (sorry, distilling) up a gin brand with her brother, Alex. The twist, as is standard with gin, is that made from grapes, not grains.
Renais Gin valorises the winemaking sidestream by upcycling byproducts – French pressed wine grape skins and lees – some of which come from the Watson family vineyard. These are mixed with a distillate made from Kimmeridgian stone (the soil type of the Chablis terroir), pressed Grand Cru grapes and a whole host of botanicals: linden flowers, cubeb berries, coriander seeds, acacia honey, lemon peel, angelica roots, lime slices, rock salt and juniper.
The company is certified as carbon-neutral by ClimatePartner, which evaluates the entire supply chain to “cut out as much carbon as possible, and offset the remainder through humanitarian and ecological initiatives”. Offsetting programmes aren’t always the best idea, though, as the company acknowledges. “We know we’re not perfect, but are committed to offsetting our footprint while working in the background to minimise our impact.”
Renais Gin uses solar-powered stills and tackles the packaging problem too, partnering with the Magical Mushroom Company to create biodegradable mushroom packaging.
Who says wizards can’t be sustainable?