Maddy Rotman and Taylor Lanzet are college friends turned co-founders of a regenerative organic alcohol brand, sourcing their ingredients from ROC-certified farms here in the US.
“We met on Maddy’s first day of college in an environmental class,” says Lanzet. “We bonded over our love for cooking, agriculture, and dive bars.”
They went on to be roommates in New York while working at brands such as Imperfect Foods, Daily Harvest, Chipotle, and Everytable.
It was during this time that they turned their kitchen into a makeshift distillery, in an attempt to make Campari. It didn’t work. So they pivoted: putting herbs and botanicals into fruit juices. That led them to ask the question: how can farmers be more connected to the cocktail business?
Last year, they debuted Anytime Spritz, a canned spritz company. But there was one difference from the rest of the brands on the market: they had sourced their ingredients from organic farms in the Hudson Valley, and disclosed the ingredients on their cans (something the alcohol rarely does, Rotman says).
Now, they’re debuting a ROC certified gin and vodka, the first of its kind, she adds, made with ROC wheat. One of their key suppliers has been Breathe Deep Farm in New York, which wanted to build a “regenerative grain corridor.” Since 2018, Chris Cashen, an organic vegetable farmer, has been spearheading this effort: working with their neighbors, over 735 acres are being farmed regeneratively now.
In 2019, they started the transition, he says. “Because of our participation in ROC, we’ve had an incentive to double down our cover cropping and make sure the soil is covered throughout the year on nearly 100% of our acreage.”
This is believed to improve soil health. “Since becoming ROC, we’ve also increased our annual planting of small grains by more than 2x, adding crucial diversity to our farm landscape and extending our crop rotation.”
While data on soil health is not publicly available just yet, he notes that the farm has been collecting soil samples and tracking its changes. This year, Breathe Deep plans to be a part of a long-term study on carbon flows in the Hudson Valley. All this data will hopefully produce a clearer picture in coming years of how regenerative farming impacts the local ecology.
For Rotman and Lanzet, this is a core part of the work they’re doing with Anytime Spritz. “To date, still, only 1% of US farmland is certified organic. We know that there’s a demand for organic products, and only 1% of alcohol is certified organic. And so we’re like, if organic is growing year over year, let’s sort of bank on that last part of the value chain that people really want to get behind, which is regenerative,” says Rotman.
“You know, we talked with some folks at larger beverage conglomerates, and they have a hard time filling the demand for their organic beers. They can’t find enough supply for their demand of organic beer. So there is demand in that space. And I think there just really hasn’t been a brand that has sort of resonated with what the customer wants, which is an authentic, values-driven brand and nailed the taste and flavor.”
Their products are available in New York and California currently, with the aim to expand that core base of retailers across the US. But the world of alcohol distribution is more “complicated,” they note. It’s not quite as simple as selling other food products. For one, they are required to sell through a distributor and that will vary from region to region. However, they’re hoping that their experience working for fast-growing food companies will help them scale up Anytime Spritz and carry them through the challenges.
Yet, are customers seeking out an organic spirit and would they be willing to pay more for it? That’s the question that’s framed their company, Lanzet says.
“Well when you look at alcohol, there are so few options that tell you what’s in it and use organic or regenerative organic ingredients. The closest option is something with maybe great millennial branding, or supporting a women-run distillery. But there’s very few values-led options in this category. And so for us, our experience has been building these connectors, building this messy middle between what consumers want, and what farmers are innovating, and connecting the two.”
So could this be a new trend that pushes their competitors to also think about transparency and a farm-to-bottle (or can) approach that’s existed in wine but not as deeply in spirits? They certainly hope it does inspire others to follow suit.
“We’re not just waking up cocktails; we’re waking up an entire industry,” says Rotman.