Photo by Stanislav Ivanitskiy on Unsplash

I’ve found another example of innovation we can toast to — quite literally! With this new discovery, we can feel we’re addressing climate change one sustainable martini at a time. Yes, while enjoying my vodka martini with sweet vermouth, I have been known to ponder sustainability and the planet’s future. Who doesn’t?

I came across a company in New York City that has created what it calls the “world’s most sustainable spirit” The Air Company makes its vodka out of carbon dioxide captured from the air. The 40% proof drink, appropriately called Air Vodka, removes a pound of CO2 from the atmosphere for each bottle of vodka made.

The company, which started manufacturing from a Brooklyn plant in 2019, produces about 5,000 cases of vodka a year. Gregory Constantine, an Australian entrepreneur, started the climate-friendly distillery with Stafford Sheehan. The duo claims that traditional vodka, which involves the fermentation of grains, releases about 15 pounds of CO2 for each bottle made. The Air Company’s process changes that.

The innovative vodka process

The Air Company takes CO2, either sucked directly from the air or captured at source at industrial facilities and combines it with hydrogen created through electrolysis – the process where electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The technology used to merge these elements creates ethanol which, when combined with water, becomes a vodka.

The carbon conversion reactor is a tubular, fixed-bed flow system. The CO2 and H2 rise to the top of each tube, which are filled with a patented catalyst. This creates a chemical reaction that produces a reactor liquid. The reactor liquid is composed of ethanol (C2H5OH), methanol (CH3OH) and water (H2O). From there, it goes through a distillation process that separates the reactor liquid.  Ethanol, methanol and water all have different boiling points. Therefore, when heated to a specific temperature, they separate. First, the ethanol and methanol are separated from the water. Then, the process repeats to separate the methanol from the ethanol. The ethanol and water are combined in large steel totes and mixed by hand to produce “air vodka.”

Putting carbon emissions on ice

Continuing the innovation, Air Company is also using a similar process to make a hand sanitizer and to create a new fragrance called Air Eau de Parfum. Still, I’m most excited about addressing climate change by selecting a sustainable brand. It’s time to make what they call an “airtini.”

There is a lot to be said for being able to enjoy a drink and care about the climate at the same time. I am sure that there are other distilleries using other innovative techniques for sustainable liquor production. Investigate your local distillery and let me know your favorite. Hope to have a cocktail with you soon!