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Whit Rigali and Sam Chereskin, the co-founders of Misadventures & Co. in Vista, have come up with a novel way to craft vodka. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene
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Locals turn old bread into vodka

VISTA — The co-founders of Misadventures & Co. are redefining the way craft vodka is made and educating buyers on the benefits of producing an environmentally friendly product. The progressive-thinking North County duo — Sam Chereskin an agricultural economist, and Whit Rigali, a trained artist and career mixologist — realized that Misadventure Vodka not only saves everyone money but it’s benefiting the environment.

Roughly 1,500 pounds of baked goods at food banks destined for the landfill are intercepted by the Misadventures team every single week and brought to their distillery space at The California Spirits Company in San Marcos.

It was Chereskin, 28, who conceptualized the food waste solution. According to Chereskin, the definition of vodka is anything which is distilled at 95 percent ethanol and then filtered through carbons. For Chereskin, it was all about trying to make food systems work in a better and more efficient way.

“We realized that we could use food wastes as a potential starch source in order to be able to make the vodka,” he said. “We are using everything that is in your grocery store bread aisle.”

And it’s just not one kind of starch product either. Misadventures Vodka uses bagels, hamburger buns, baguettes, donuts, cakes, pies and more. From this concept, the team realized rather quickly that they could acquire in bulk post-consumer carbohydrates. 

Rigali, 35, shared that when people buy sustainable or green goods, sometimes they feel as if they are sacrificing something — be it quality or functionality.

“It doesn’t work as well as the mass-produced counterparts,” Rigali said.

To sidestep this, Rigali wanted to follow a hedonistic sustainability blueprint coined by Danish architect Bjarke Ingles, who applied this philosophy to his architecture. A person can be sustainable and enjoy the outcome of their purchase.

“Now, people don’t have to sacrifice to be sustainable when it comes to choosing our beverage, and that is what makes us unique,” said Rigali, adding that first-timers rave about it. “That is one of the big surprises with our vodka — it doesn’t taste like every other vodka — it has a unique taste and flavor.”

Misadventures Vodka launched in July. A list of establishments carrying it include Mission Avenue Bar & Grill in Oceanside, The Compass in Carlsbad, Land & Water Company in Carlsbad, Urge Gastropub in Oceanside and San Marcos, Concept Two.Seven.Eight in Hillcrest, The Roxy Encinitas and Fiesta Liquor in Carlsbad.

While both Chereskin and Rigali have creative backgrounds, Chereskin is quick to point out that Misadventures & Co. is much more than just a business. Chereskin describes the venture as one of the most creative things they have ever done.

Frequently, people want to know from Chereskin about any philanthropic aspect to their business. In addition to circumventing food going to the landfills, there is another component. 

“The consumer gets to do something that they are almost never asked, or allowed to do, which is exercise a choice with their dollar that doesn’t just do a little bit less harm, but literally evaporates some of it,” Chereskin said.

At the cost of $22 per bottle, Chereskin pointed out that the affordability factor will influence some people to participate.

“A nonprofit that earns some of its own revenue streams does not have to be subject to the capriciousness of a philanthropist’s wish as to how it performs its goodness in the world. It can do what it wants consistently,” Chereskin said. “To be able to provide that as part of our business model and not as part of a donation in a more traditional sense, is part of how we engage with the world.”