‘World’s most sustainable spirit’: the vodka made with CO2 captured from air

The disastrous consequences of the unfolding climate crisis is enough to drive some people to drink, so making alcohol from planet-heating gases is perhaps a logical next step.

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

Water drips from a faucet near boat docks sitting on dry land at the Browns Ravine Cove area of drought-stricken Folsom Lake, California

The Air Company, which started manufacturing the vodka from a Brooklyn plant in 2019, produces about 5,000 cases of the product a year, with a new factory planned to ramp up production. The business, which was a finalist in Elon Musk’s Xprize, hopes to be at the vanguard of companies that create things from captured CO2 – other uses include the reinforcing of concrete and the production of materials to replace certain plastics and metals.

“People thought we were batshit crazy when we started – some still do, I think,” said Gregory Constantine, an Australian entrepreneur who started the climate-friendly distillery with Stafford Sheehan. The duo claim that traditionally made vodka, which involves the fermentation of grains, releases about 15lb of CO2 for each bottle made.

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.