On a coffee trip to Colombia, Tristan Willey and Mark Byrne noticed an exorbitant amount of waste from coffee bean extraction. They looked at all the fruit, skin and pulp that was discarded after the beans were extracted and thought, that’s perfectly good sugar.
After seven years of development, Good Vodka, a carbon-negative vodka distilled from coffee fruit, launched in 2020 and has taken off in the Denver market, where two of the company's four partners are based.
The idea was to make a spirit from something that already exists and not have to grow something, diverting that waste and not allowing it to release carbon gases. More than 15 million tons of coffee fruit is wasted each year. Good vodka uses 1/100th of the water used in average vodkas, and each bottle actually offsets driving forty miles in a car.
"For us, the mission is to produce spirits in this incredibly sustainable way and to have an impact on the liquor industry for the better. That's why we did it," says partner Lauren Greene. The fruit left over from the bean comes from the Caldas region of Colombia, where Good Vodka works directly with the Colombia Coffee Federation. It’s turned into a highly concentrated, jammy material and gets shipped to the Finger Lakes region of New York, where it’s distilled.
After distilling, it’s sent to Denver, where it’s finished and bottled in RiNo. Since Denver is the brand's biggest market, shipping raw ethanol and then diluting and bottling it here minimizes the amount of water that gets shipped over state lines.
An added benefit of starting with fresh fruit for vodka? It’s delicious, notes Greene. “It’s actually a vodka you want to sip,” she says. The end product is described as having a complexity, an undertone of fruit, a vegetal quality and a viscosity that is not found in a typical vodka. Wine magazine said, “The warm aroma suggests cocoa and tropical fruit. Those notes are echoed on the robust palate, which finishes with a fruity tang and a white pepper tingle.”
The spirit is a layering agent, Greene explains, imparting a unique taste to any drink. "We are finding success working with very cool bars and restaurants that appreciate that Good Vodka adds complexity and flavor and uniqueness to their cocktail program," she adds.
Despite the fact that the vodka does not actually taste like coffee and contains no caffeine, Greene says that she and other partners at the company enjoy it in an espresso martini, a cocktail that represents a full-circle journey.
At Death & Co inside the Ramble Hotel in RiNo, Good Vodka is mixed with Beniotome Shochu (sake), Apricot Eau de Vie (a fruit brandy), Cocchi Americano (an aperitif) and yuzu bitters. Other local restaurants with Good Vodka on its drink menus include Olivia, the Tatarian, Mercantile, Bao Brewhouse, Le French, Lady Jane, Safta and the Wild.
For enjoying at home, Good Vodka’s website suggestions include the Good Martini; A Simple Collins with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup; and the Buena Amarga, a play on a negroni with Suze Gentian Liqueur and Dolin Blanc Vermouth.
Bottles are available at various liquor stores across the state, such as Mile High Wine & Spirits, Wallaby’s Liquor Warehouse and North Park Liquors.
To learn more, visit goodvodka.com.