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Drunk Again, Naturally

By drinking organic booze, you just might be able to avoid that nasty hangover.
Monday Sep 22, 2008.     By K. Tighe
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

I've been trying to cut down on drinking lately, a feat that has proven to be most difficult given that my occupation—writing about food, drinks and music—calls for getting liquored-up on a nightly basis. So why am I whining about getting paid to swig whiskey at rock shows, sample seasonal beers, test out wine pairings and hunt down inventive cocktails? Well, because there's always a morning after.

When I found out that Sean Evans of the New York Daily News embarked on an "investigation" about the effects of organic booze on the gnarly head spins that come with daybreak, I was intrigued. Booze without the headache? Sign me up! But does it work? His "investigation" involved getting shit-canned on organic booze one night, and matching his 11 drinks with their non-organic counterparts the next. His report? That organic spirits left him with only a mild bout of grogginess, which was easily remedied with a shower, and the traditional firewater sent him into an equally traditional, room-spinning, time-sucking hangover. So through intrepid research, Evans discovered that organic alcohol does reduce the hangover factor—and inspired me to keeping throwing back cocktails. Thanks, Sean.

Gin: Juniper Green
Since I work from home, my Happy Hours usually take place in my own digs, meaning I need to be able mix up an old-school martini on the fly. Once upon a time I leaned on Sapphire to anchor the customary end-of-work cocktail, but now I grab a bottle of Juniper Green from Sam's for $27.99. Billed as "the world's first and only organic gin," this UK export is 100% percent certified organic—and that's according to the lofty Brit authority, the Soil Association, and not the ultra-lax organic regulations in the States. No chemicals ever hit any of the ingredients in this smooth, aromatic gin—not even in the botanicals, which are sourced from around the world and include juniper berries and angelica root in the front, followed by a subtle wave of coriander and savory sneaking in the back.

Vodka: Rain
Even for those that weren't aware of the growing popularity of organic booze, it's no secret that the movement has infiltrated the vodka world. Square One, Prairie, Tru; there are nearly a dozen varieties commercially available in the United States already. But if you're the kind that likes a little flair in your tipple, head to Crust for an entire menu of Rain vodka infusions. The vodka itself is mellow and impossibly smooth, so the idea of blending it with sugar-laden cranberry juice or from-concentrate OJ just doesn't mesh with the pure, organic sensibilities of the company. Crust offers a range of in-house infusions, served shaken, straight-up or in a host of inspired cocktails. Whether you're in the mood for a fruity grapefruit-and-bergamot, a spicy-sweet chili-and-Mexican cinnamon blend or an energizing espresso-and-cardamom concoction, Crust has an infusion to suit every taste.

Tequila: 4 Copas
I'm not much of a tequila drinker (chalk it up to one-too-many bad runs with the stuff), but I still grab bottles to bring to cocktail parties and give to friends. The problem with tequila? The good stuff is mighty costly, so finding a unique, moderately-priced bottle is key. 4 Copas (which is available from Binny's starting at only $59.99) offers the world's only organic tequila; no chemicals are used and only organic nutrition is used to nourish the agave plants. What's more, the company is community-minded and family-run (now in its third generation). A thousand acres of organic agave in the Jalisco desert give way to tequila in four styles—blanco, anejo, extra-anejo and reposado—which are bottled in hand-blown glass from local artisans. The taste? Smoother than tequila has any business being, and one that's been trumpeted by shot-hoisting, earth-hugging celebrities from Johnny Depp to Bono.

Scotch: Highland Harvest
By now you're curious about entering into your own organic bender, but what's a bender without a shot (or five) of whiskey? Not to worry, the Scots have already figured this out. With no chemicals used during any part of the process, the creation of Highland Harvest bears considerable resemblance to the whiskey-making days of a hundred years ago, and the taste shows it: The spicy, almost creamy, profile is a blend of Highland, Island and Speyside grains and goes down smooth. Try it in a "Johnny Jump Up" ($5 for five ounces, $9 for nine ounces, and $12 for 12 ounces) at the Butterfly Social Club. The soft notes of Highland Harvest are mixed with naturally effervescent raw (and organic, of course) apple cider in a drink custom-built for fall consumption.

 

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