What inspired you to launch Greenbar Distillery?
It was a home hobby gone wild. Melkon started making really interesting infusions for little old me. He wanted to make something I’d enjoy at his family gatherings. I wasn’t much of a straight spirits drinker, which is what they offered. By watching the way I cooked—fresh ingredients, layering flavors, tasting and adjusting—he made some very interesting infused spirits.
He became obsessed with using the flavor of real food in his infusions. When he deemed his concoctions done, he’d pour them into pretty bottles with gorgeous labels he’d designed. Off we’d go to family events with a bottle in hand. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who loved it. Melkon’s cousins would steal the bottles. Then our friends would call us because they wanted to expand their own home bar selection. Then people we didn’t know started calling our home to ask for our spirits.
It soon got out of hand and the choice became clear: either unlist our phone number or go into business. In the end, it was an easy and happy choice.
How did you come up with the name Greenbar?
When we started professionally making spirits in 2004, we were called Modern Spirits, but when we decided to become an organic distillery, we decided our name needed to reflect our new path.
We began planting trees in 2008. It was a grand gesture. In many cultures, you plant a tree when a baby is born. These bottles are our babies. We’ve planted more than 800,000 since then. That’s where the name Greenbar originates.
“Sustainability has come to mean something quite radical. We don’t simply want to waste less. We think it’s time to put back more than we take — a philosophy that we’ve built into our business model by planting trees.”
For every bottle you sell, you are planting a tree in the rainforest of Central America. What motivated you to do this?
Sustainability has come to mean something quite radical. We don’t simply want to waste less. We think it’s time to put back more than we take — a philosophy that we’ve built into our business model by planting trees.
We discovered that over the life of a full-grown tree, it absorbs 792 kg of greenhouse gases. To put that into context, that’s 17.5 times the daily carbon footprint of the average American. We work with Sustainable Harvest International because we love their ethos. They provide help and support for rural communities through education and resources. This helps people while also creating a better world.
Put simply: slash and burn farming and intensive agriculture can be devastating to the environment. With sustainable farming techniques, communities instead learn how to protect the land so it can better support them. Through them, we plant indigenous shade trees that protect the crops and help the land remain healthy. This approach is profitable for the local farmers, is better for communities and results in a better environment for everyone.