Air Co., a Brooklyn-based start-up, has developed the nuclear fusion equivalent of alcohol distillation
The production of alcohol involves converting the sugars in grains into ethanol. The process as we know it today is likely the accumulation of a series of serendipitous discoveries by our forebears. But Air Co., a Brooklyn-based start-up, has just thrown that time-honoured playbook out of the proverbial window.
While conventional methods of alcohol production break sugars down into alcohol compounds, this intrepid start-up devised a method to combine carbon, oxygen and hydrogen into ethanol. And because carbon is removed from the atmosphere in the process, along with the fact that the high-tech distillery is entirely solar-powered, Air Co. is claiming its product as the world’s first carbon-negative vodka. The start-up says that each bottle produced removes 0.5kg of carbon from the atmosphere, which is equivalent to the daily carbon intake of eight trees. In contrast, producing a typical bottle of vodka releases 5.9kg of carbon into the wild.
Air Co. is the brainchild of Gregory Constantine, a former marketing lead at Diageo, and Stafford Sheehan, an electrochemist who received his doctorate from Yale. Using a custom-built, 20-plate vodka still, Sheehan’s secret process is similar to photosynthesis and the key ingredients are air and water. When finished, the product is 98.5 per cent ethanol, which is then diluted to an 80-proof vodka. And unlike traditional techniques where distillation is needed to remove impurities such as methanol, Sheehan’s process sidesteps the problem by not creating them in the first place. The result? A pure, premium-quality spirit that you can indulge in with a clean conscience.
As the process of distribution leaves its own carbon footprint, availability is limited for now to New York, at leading cocktail bars such as Employees Only or Chinese Tuxedo. Each 750ml bottle is priced at US$65 (S$90).