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The world’s first carbon-negative spirit turns CO2 into vodka

Photography By Air Company

If there’s one thing the existential threat of climate change makes us feel like we need, it’s a drink.

So you can imagine our excitement when we discovered there’s an alcoholic pick-me-up that actively works to reverse the effects of climate change. Enter Air Company, the New York-based pioneers behind the world’s most sustainable spirit.

Air Company’s first product, Air Vodka with Natural Flavors, isn’t just carbon neutral, it’s carbon negative and made from three simple ingredients: air, water and sun.

A sophisticated piece of carbon conversion technology makes this possible, which co-founder Gregory Constantine describes as “complex and simple at the same time”. When the CO2 and hydrogen combine and meet Air Company’s piece of technology, a catalyst within that technology causes a reaction that produces high purity ethanol (in other words, alcohol), the principle ingredient used in, you guessed it, the spirits industry.

As if their ability to make consumable alcohol in this way isn’t impressive enough, Constantine adds: “For every litre of alcohol that we create, we’re actually removing a pound of CO2 from the air.”

Constantine runs through the (requested) idiot’s guide to Air Company’s technical process. I comprehend it on a rudimentary level but it’s clear the proprietary CO2 conversion technology he and co-founder Dr Stafford Sheehan created is an innovative feat. And not content with transforming the alcohol industry, the duo are currently working with NASA to explore the conversion of CO2 from the Martian atmosphere.

“The beauty of the technology is that our most core input is CO2 and the output can be a variety of things,” Constantine says.“The reason we’re working with NASA is because the Martian atmosphere (being Mars) is 95.32 per cent CO2 and we’re able to take that CO2 and turn it into things that can be used for either human consumption – sugars and other feedstocks – or as a fuel.” (Rocket fuel for spaceships, by the way).

It took Constantine and Sheehan over two years to perfect Air Company’s first product; quality was paramount, as was ensuring this was the best, not just better than other spirits on the market. The pair opened a distillery in Brooklyn, New York, in 2019, and beyond North America and Canada, their next steps to scale involve deploying Air Company’s technology in Europe and Asia.

Air Company are currently working to apply their tech to eight other industries, one of which is the perfume industry. Not unlike their vodka, their intention is to create luxurious products that sell on their own merit, and notably, just so happen to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

“We spent a lot of time focusing on design for that reason,” Constantine says, referring to the minimal yet chic composition of Air Company’s vodka bottles. The label, fixed using a natural, non-toxic adhesive, is easily removed so that beyond the last drop of impurity-free vodka, the bottle becomes stylish household decor.

If you’re the type to lean into the saying “everything happens for a reason”, Constantine’s is a satisfying story. After finishing a communications degree in Sydney, working in the music industry, moving to the US, getting recruited to Diageo (one of the biggest alcohol companies in the world) and ending up on a Forbes ‘30 under 30 list’, he met Stafford, a scientist with a PhD from Yale, in a bar overseas. I could say the rest is history but my gut feeling tells me this is only the start of Air Company’s journey; from alcohol to aerospace, we’re ready to toast the next chapter for this innovative company.

Cocktails for climate anybody?

Airtini

3 oz Air Vodka with Natural Flavors
Hint of dry Vermouth
0.5 oz Castelvetrano olive juice
1 Castelvetrano olive

Splash dry Vermouth into a martini glass, swirling it until the glass is evenly coated.
Pour Air Vodka with Natural Flavors and olive juice in a shaker with ice and shake.
Strain, pour and garnish with an olive.
Sip and enjoy.

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