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Cowcohol: The Surprising Ingredients Behind This Unconventional Vodka

You’ll never believe what this vodka is made of!

Alternative vodka production methods have opened the door to new and more sustainable ways of making spirits. While you may have heard of vodka made from peas, there is an Oregon vodka that uses a completely different recipe – or should we say, a different whey recipe.
The brainchild of Todd Koch, owner of TMK Creamery near Canby, Oregon, this unique vodka was created to utilize excess products from the dairy. Inspired by Paul Hughes, an assistant professor of distilled spirits at Oregon State University, Koch wanted to explore environmentally sustainable and cost-effective methods of fermenting whey into spirits, especially for small creameries.

The power of whey protein

Even small dairies produce byproducts such as whey, one of the two proteins found in milk. During food production, such as cheese making, whey protein is separated from the casein protein. However, without expensive equipment, this whey byproduct is often left unusable and unsellable.
Large dairies may have the resources to convert whey into marketable products like protein powder, but small farms are left with the waste. This challenge led Koch to find a cost-effective solution for utilizing excess whey, resulting in the creation of a whey-based vodka aptly named “Cowcohol”.

The Rise of Whey-Based Vodka Production

Dairies across the United States are increasingly turning to whey-based spirit production as a sustainable vodka solution. Unlike traditional grain- or potato-based clear spirits, whey-based vodka offers a more environmentally friendly alternative.
Each pound of cheese typically produces nine pounds of whey, which can be fermented with special yeast and distilled into vodka. This process allows dairies to maximize their resources. Todd Koch explains, “We’re able to get another product out of the same gallon of milk. We feel like we’re getting everything we can out of that initial raw material.
Paul Hughes of Oregon State University predicts that the trend toward whey-based beverages will continue to grow. He believes that fermentation and distillation are the keys to unlocking whey’s potential as a base for creating unique and flavorful spirits.

Unveiling the taste of whey-based vodka

But what does whey-based vodka taste like? According to tasters at Nerds in Oregon, this innovative vodka has a delightful aroma with only a slight hint of alcohol. As for the taste, it’s exceptionally smooth. Tasters express their satisfaction by exclaiming, “Wow! It’s smooth. It’s very smooth,” with a quick smile spreading across their faces.
The combination of innovation, taste and sustainability makes whey-based vodka an enticing choice for those seeking both unique flavors and eco-friendly options in their spirits.

The future of sustainable spirits

The introduction of whey-based vodka represents a significant step forward in the production of sustainable spirits. By utilizing surplus whey, dairies can reduce waste and create an additional marketable product. This not only benefits the environment, but also supports the economic viability of small dairies.
As the popularity of whey-based beverages continues to grow, more variations and flavors are expected to enter the market. The fermentation and distillation of whey offers endless possibilities for creating spirits that are both delicious and environmentally conscious.
So the next time you raise a glass of vodka, you might just be savoring the ingenuity and sustainability that comes from transforming whey into a smooth and flavorful spirit.


What is whey-based vodka?

Whey-based vodka is a type of vodka made by fermenting and distilling whey, a by-product of cheese making. It offers a sustainable and innovative alternative to traditional grain- or potato-based vodkas.

How is whey made into vodka?

To turn whey into vodka, special yeast is used to ferment the whey, converting its sugars into alcohol. The fermented liquid is then distilled to remove impurities and increase the alcohol content, resulting in whey-based vodka.

Is whey-based vodka green?

Yes, whey-based vodka is considered environmentally friendly. It uses excess whey that would otherwise be wasted, reducing the environmental impact of dairy production. By turning a by-product into a marketable spirit, it promotes sustainability in the industry.

Does whey-based vodka taste different from traditional vodka?

Whey-based vodka has a unique flavor profile. Tasters describe it as smooth with a slight hint of alcohol. Its taste can vary depending on the specific production methods and ingredients used, but overall it offers a distinct and enjoyable drinking experience.

Can I use whey-based vodka in cocktails and mixed drinks?

Absolutely! Whey-based vodka can be used in a variety of cocktails and mixed drinks, just like traditional vodka. Its smooth taste and versatility make it a great choice for creating delicious and innovative cocktails that will impress your guests.

Are there any other spirits or drinks made from whey?

While whey-based vodka is gaining popularity, there are other spirits and drinks made from whey. Some dairies produce whey-based liqueurs, gins, and even whey-based beers. The fermentation and distillation of whey offers the opportunity to create a number of unique and flavorful beverages.

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