Some alcoholic libations stand on their own. Others work best in partnership.
If a distillery were to set out to make an environmentally friendly beverage, it would then make sense to choose one whose constant companion is not infused with a potent greenhouse gas.
Yet the Arbikie Distillery in Angus, Scotland, chose gin. As anyone who’s ever been to a… well, to a gin-joint knows, this aromatic, juniper-infused liquid is accompanied by one mixer above all others: tonic water.
It would take a course in early European history to trace the origins of this clear, fresh-scented spirit but in England, at least, barley-based gin rose to prominence when French brandy was heavily taxed, some hundreds of years ago.
Malaria brought gin and tonic together, as the hideously bitter bark used to treat it – quinine – once dissolved in sweetened, carbonated water, was often taken with gin. Thus, the G & was born.
While gins are usually made from wheat, maize, or barley grain mash, the legal definitions in the U.S. and Canada only call for alcohol “of agricultural origin.”
So, when Arbikie learned that peas – which can be grown on a carbon-negative basis and without chemical fertilizers – could be switched in place of grain spirits without loss of flavor or quality, they took the plunge.
A standard grain-based gin has a carbon footprint of +2.3 kg CO2 (eq.) per 700 ml bottle of gin. Nàdar, on the other hand, has a footprint of -1.54 kg CO2 per 700 ml bottle, making it ‘carbon negative’, or saving more carbon than is used to make it.
This matters as, according the study’s authors, “In terms of climate change impact, sipping a large measure of gin is similar to… driving one km in a petrol car.” A 2017 evaluation by WorldAtlasnoted gin use at a rate of .55 liters per person annually in the UK, a nation of more than 65.1 million people that year. That represents a lot of petrol.
Unlike a majority of plants, most legumes – such as garden peas – cull nitrogen from the atmosphere rather than from soil, hence they are ‘nitrogen-fixing’ plants that actually load nitrogen in soil through a complex microbial process, for the next crops in rotation. The research team from the Hutton Institute found that the “environmental footprint of pea gin was significantly lower than for wheat gin across 12 of 14 environmental impacts evaluated, from climate change, through water and air pollution, to fossil energy consumption,” according to the institute’s molecular ecologist, Dr. Pietro Iannetta.
In addition, “a waste product known as ‘pot ale’ is created from the leftover pea protein and spent yeast,” that is “suitable for animal feeds that reduce the need for imported soybeans, noted The Drinks Business.” It is the reduction in carbon engendered by cutting “soybean cultivation, deforestation, processing and transport,” that pushes this gin into carbon-neutral status.
The first batch – 1,000 bottles – is already up for sale. Bottoms up!
 Wikipedia, Gin
 Glosbe, Scottish Gaelic Dictionary
 Abertay University, Dundee; James Hutton Institute, Clattering Bridge, Laurencekirk, UK
 Science Daily, Just the Tonic!, July 8 2019
 Gin Kin, Nàdar Pea Gin is a New Carbon Positive Ultra Eco-Friendly Tipple, Feb 19 2020
 World Atlas, Countries That Drink the Most Gin, 2017
 Country Digest, UK Population, 2017
 Food and Wine, ‘Pea Gin’ Could be a Breakthrough for More Environmentally-Friendly Cocktails, July 16, 2019
 The Drinks Business, World’s First ‘Climate Positive’ Gin is Made from Peas, Feb 2020
 Science Daily, Just the Tonic!, July 8, 2019