Those stunt vodka flavors that sound like they belong in the trash (bubblegum, smoked salmon, Cinnabon, etc.) now have an all-natural competitor: Vodka that actually is made from trash. Misadventure & Co., a distillery located in San Diego, has concocted a sustainable version of the liquor that really puts vodka’s charcoal filtration process to the test — the thing that makes it neutral, or “tasteless” — by using food waste as the starch. Once a week, it collects about a thousand pounds of bread products that a local food bank would otherwise throw out, either because it’s expired stuff or because it wasn’t “suitable” for donation in the first place. “We get Twinkies, Ho Hos, French baguettes, crullers, you name it,” co-owner Whit Rigali tells NBC San Diego. “The whole bakery aisle goes into our vodka.”
Because vodka is just sugar from starch that gets fermented and distilled, the process with bread is still relatively straightforward, although the other co-owner, Sam Chereskin, says that when they first hatched the idea, “no one thought it was a good one.” All of the products are combined into what NBC describes as “a giant, warm blender.” The blended bread gets mashed into a “sweet porridge” of a wort, then they add yeast, distill the fermented product down into alcohol, and are left with strong liquor that’s essentially juice from a bunch of stale pastries and nuclear holocaust–proof Ho Hos.
Distilling with food waste obviously reduces Misadventure’s production costs as well, giving customers a bottle of vodka that retails for $22. But so far Chereskin and Rigali are marketing its Earth friendliness more — they claim to be “the first in the world” to produce vodka this way. “If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor of greenhouse gases behind the United States and China,” Chereskin says. “In 2014, the amount of food wasted could fill the Empire State Building 90-some times.”
Imagine the product they’d have if they joined forces with Stone Brewing, which recently started making a sustainable beer in San Diego from recycled sewage water.