The $200 meteorite-infused vodka is refreshingly tasty

Earth is bombarded by an estimated 48.5 tons of meteors and meteorites every day—and while (most) of that material luckily burns away as it hurtles through the atmosphere, smaller chunks of ancient space rock still occasionally end their multi-billion-year journeys by slamming into the planet. Of the roughly 82,000 meteorites found on Earth so far, there’s a very solid chance that only one has ever made it into liquor bottles.

Earlier this year, Pegasus Distillerie announced Shooting Star Vodka, a limited run of vodka infused with an “ordinary chondrite” meteorite. Recovered in 1977 in Nebraska, experts believe the 22.5-pound “Huntsman (b)” space rock actually arrived on Earth back in 1910, when a meteorite of the same composition was found about three miles away from its sibling—leading astronomers to theorize the two originally belonged to a larger piece that broke up upon entering the atmosphere around that time.

But regardless of its arrival time, Huntsman (b) eventually found its way into the hands of Pegasus founder, Maxime Girardin, through an Arizona intermediary. While an heir to a multigenerational family of winemakers from the Burgundy region of France, Girardin wanted to pursue a different direction for his new company by experimenting not just with terrestrial ingredients, but ingredients originating in the depths of outer space.

But creativity only goes so far if your drink ends up tasting like moon dust. Luckily for Pegasus, that’s far from the case: the official Popular Science verdict is that Shooting Star Vodka is very good, actually.

[Related: Watch a meteor’s incredible light show above Spain and Portugal.]

The boutique alcohol has been rigorously assessed (multiple times) by the author of this piece, who confidently concludes the spirit is a unique variation on classic wheat vodka. There’s certainly a note of spring water in the nose for Shooting Star, and although there is still a bit of bite to it compared with similar vodkas, the surprisingly sweet flavor profile cuts through any burn to deliver a satisfying, refreshing overall taste—but as Girardin explained earlier this month, given that vodka contains no sugar, it’s unclear how the meteorite infusion accomplished this. There even might be the slightest of effervescence to the liquor.

Before you can infuse vodka, however, you need some actual alcohol. Pegasus’ distillation process relies on organic, locally sourced French wheat and barley, as well as spring water collected from an underground river that passes through limestone layers roughly 150-meters (about 492-feet) below the company’s Burgundy distillery. Once the vodka is made, then it’s time to mix in the meteorites.

The vodka is distilled using local wheat and barley from France. Credit: Pegasus Distillerie

Infusing drinks dates back thousands of years and follows a relatively straightforward process of osmotic diffusion, in which alcohol permeates an added substance’s cell walls and takes on some of the chemical properties responsible for flavor. Rarely do alcohol infusions involve mineral material like stones and space rock—but there’s surprisingly a lot of organic matter in them to influence the flavor properties of a liquor like the Shooting Star vodka.

In the case of Shooting Star’s up-to-18-month infusion process, its reliance on amphoras further help enhance the unique flavor. Thanks to their porosity, the terracotta pots allow oxygen to pass through the exterior and act as a binder between the vodka and dissolving meteorite minerals.

[Related: Mars might have an asteroid problem.]

Of course, it’s easy for imaginations to run wild about potential unintended consequences of consuming liquor made from space rock exposed to billions of years’ worth of interstellar radiation. But if it makes any hesitant taste testers feel better—everything around us, including ourselves, is at least slightly radioactive.

All matter is composed of star stuff, after all, and you’re likely to register more radiation on your kitchen countertop than a hunk of meteorite here on Earth. Similarly, any radioactive elements in space rocks decay pretty fast after landing on Earth—if anything, the “vodka” part of Shooting Star Vodka is arguably the most unhealthy ingredient.

As for whether or not Shooting Star is worth paying $200 to try, that really comes down to just how badly a drinker wants to taste the cosmos—but that just may be the meteorite talking.

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