BY: PHILIPPE DE JOCAS
Who doesn’t love to kick back with a drink every now and then? There’s always beer as the good, reliable fallback option, of course, and if you’re out with friends – or if you’re spending a sad, friendless night alone – you can try mixing it up with some of the stronger stuff like whisky, vodka, or gin. If you’re in a more exotic mood, however, why not try a sip of caipirinha? This sweet, lime-flavored eixir is widely recognized as the national cocktail of Brazil, an alternative to the popular mojitos.
As with most popular drinks, sugar plays a very big role in the creation and distilment of caipihrina. Sugar cane remains a popular staple crop in many south American countries, but the conditions under which laborers gather their sugar remain harsh and unforgiving, a sort of modern-day feudalism where underpaid laborers struggle to earn a healthy living. Setting up sugar plantations involves clear-cutting acres of otherwise untouched rainforest, and the damages that pesticides wreak on their crops can poison local water sources and leach nutrients from the soil. Are we doomed to feel a pang of ecological guilt every time we want to hold a cocktail social?
2017 marks the first rumblings of change. Novo Fogo, a premium spirit that prides itself on its ecologically conscious trends, aims to take the spirits markets by storm by changing the game. Their signature caipihrina mixture combines tropical fruits and sugar – and can be enjoyed straight up – but where they really try to distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowd is their remarkable new approach to creating a sound, ethical, and ecologically conscious work environment.
Axinte, Inc. owns Novo Fogo, and at their private distillery and surrounding farms, the company takes a different approach to sustainable land management. The company aims to reduce clear-cutting whenever possible, leaving sustainable plots of jungle in place. All pesticides are verboten. Instead, farmhands and sharecroppers tend their crops by hand, including manually pulling weeds from their land rather than crop dusting. It’s tough work, made harder by the extreme conditions of the jungle, but Axinte has vowed to take great care of its employees. Unlike many other laborers across Central and South America, Axinte employees receive benefits that rival many companies in first world countries. Axinte employees have rigid break schedules, receive complimentary food and water while on the job, and can take advantages of raises, family allowances, and complimentary housing courtesy of the company. These luxurious trappings on an otherwise rather thankless job have proven very popular with employees and human rights investigators seeking to raise the general conditions of life in central America. Axinte modestly refers to its generous employee plans as simple “common sense” policies.
As demand grows for Brazilian spirits, Axinte hopes to reach out to other unionized plantations across the nation, implement their progressive policies, and hopefully lift everyone’s spirits.