It’s fun to joke that unhealthy things are actually healthy. For example, “This pizza is healthy because it has green peppers and tomatoes on it.” Or, “This mac and cheese is good for me because it’s all-natural.”
Now, with spirits brands like Prairie and Drake’s getting in on the USDA-certified organic game, you can likely expect to hear people claiming their booze is healthy, too. But is organic alcohol really any better for you than the regular stuff?
While some alcohol in moderation is usually OK for most people—especially when it’s not combined with sugary mixers—the short answer is: Not really. Citing a 2010 study, Leigh Wagner, an Integrative Dietitian at the University of Kansas Medical Center, said, “Researchers found that, after distillation, 89 percent of pesticides were removed from the distilled spirit. So, distillation would likely remove the majority of the pesticides from alcohol.”
With distillation apparently cleaning the RoundUp right out your booze, the organic aspect becomes mostly moot, at least as far as your body is concerned. Still, it turns out there are plenty of good reasons to choose organic alcohol over the conventional stuff.
Though it’s definitely not true of every organic food and drink brand, it’s fair to speculate that many of the purveyors (and especially the smaller ones) who go through the trouble of obtaining a USDA-organic certification may put more care into producing their offerings. And that’s certainly the case with Prairie Organic Spirits, which makes its regular vodka, cucumber vodka and gin from single-sourced corn grown on a handful of family-owned-and-operated organic farms in Minnesota, where the brand is headquartered. And unlike some distilleries, which distill their alcohol a set number of times (and often in mass quantities), Prairie distills its spirits to taste (also in Minnesota). This is because, according to literature from the brand, “climate, soil and moisture levels give each small batch its own unique character.” (Terroir, as the wine snobs like to call it.)
Of course, if you’re mixing your gin and vodka with soda, juice or tonic, you may not be too concerned with subtle nuances in taste. And that’s OK. But for conscious consumers, there’s still a major argument to be made in favor of organic booze—or any organic food or drink for that matter.
Studies have shown that organic farming is better for the environment than conventional methods, and unlike traditional farming practices, it greatly reduces the risk of groundwater pollution. And, as I witnessed on a recent trip to an organic family farm in Minnesota that supplies corn to Prairie, it can create higher-wage farming jobs and healthier, safer working conditions for laborers—because brands pay more for organic grains and workers aren’t exposed to harmful pesticides.
Those feel-good benefits were enough for Prairie to put in the time, effort and expense required to obtain organic certification.
“We chose to make Prairie organic because when we created Prairie 10 years ago we saw an opportunity to create a unique kind of spirits brand—a brand that’s built upon the close connection to the family farmers that work hard to grow USDA-certified organic corn and a brand that is a good steward of the land around us,” said Scott Meek, vice president of marketing for Prairie.
So it turns out that, by drinking organic booze, you may not be directly impacting your health, but you might be making the world a slightly better place for some other guy. And these days, we’ll raise a glass to that… even if it’s not exactly “healthy.”