James Bond may have liked his dirty martinis shaken (not stirred!), but how about a martini that’s just a little cleaner? Organic alcohol, made with ingredients only grown on organic farms and processed in a dedicated distillery, is free of pesticides or fertilizers normally found in its conventional counterparts. With its supposedly “cleaner” makeup, is this booze worth the switch?

Going Pour-ganic — The Need-to-Know

Certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organic alcohol must use production methods without residues that can potentially pollute air, soil, and water. This means that organic alcohol is produced from products free of pesticides and fertilizers, chemicals that, when ingested frequently, can potentially increase the risk of cancer other health risksHow sustainable agriculture can address the environmental and human health harms of industrial agriculture. Horrigan, L., Lawrence, RS., Walker, P. Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland. Environmental Health Perspectives 2002 May;110(5):445-56..

According to Dr. Adolfo Murillo, President and CEO of organic tequila producer Tequila Alquima, chemicals used to speed up alcohol production can leave salts and heavy metals that might make it through to the final product. Organic producers like Murillo try to eliminate these chemicals at all stages, from the field to fermentation and bottling. Murillo believes that because organic alcohols lack such compounds, drinkers will tend to feel diminished hangovers. Though more research is needed to measure the effect organic booze can have on reducing hangovers, some evidence suggests gulping down a cocktail free of added chemicals could leave a lighter sting the morning after.

Besides providing a buzz with less chemical fuzz, producers like Murillo argue organic alcohol production is also more sustainable, forgoing substances that can harm soil. Looks like that next drink’s impact could go beyond a happy night out.

Sustainable Sipping — Your Action Plan

With the billion dollar organic foods industry on a fast rise, organic alcohol is making its way into many bars and liquor stores across the country. And while making the switch to organic may potentially be the more environmentally friendly and healthy choice, there can be too much of a good thing. Besides being a little pricier than its inorganic counterpart, making that umpteenth drink organic won’t fully prevent a nasty hangover the next day.

Research also suggests frequent and high ingestion of alcohol— organic or not— can increase esophageal cancer risks as well as cause liver damageAlcohol consumption and oxidative DNA damage. Hirano, T. Department of Life and Environment Engineering, Faculty of Environmental Engineering, The University of Kitakyushu, 1-1 Hibikino, Wakamatsu-ku, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka 808-0135, Japan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2011 Jul;8(7):2895-906.. It’s also unclear exactly how much of those potentially toxic compounds normal alcohol actually contains. Switching to organic, however, might help prevent chemical residues from landing in a drink (and possibly agricultural fields), possibly providing a “cleaner” (but just as fun) alternative. But as always, please drink responsibly!

“Organic Alcohol is made by following the same set of strict guidelines set by the USDA for all organic foods. This means the alcohol is produced from organically grown grains, grapes, or other products and are free of synthetic fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, GMO’s as well as herbicides. Ultimately the benefits of drinking organic alcohol are completely dependent on frequency of alcohol consumption, which varies widely from person to person. For those who only have 1-2 drinks per month, then the type of alcohol is not significant in the scheme of things. On the other hand, for those who have higher intakes of alcohol, conventionally grown or non-organic products that contain pesticides or chemicals pose more of a health risk during pregnancy or in children. It is also advised to drink alcohol in moderation (1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks for men) to prevent negatively impacting health. The major benefit of organic alcohol, like most organically grown foods, is that it does support the environment. Drawbacks include higher prices and it can be much harder to find in stores.”