Have a Cocktail at a Top St. Louis Bar and Help Save Snow Leopards This Month
Stephen Sparrow, founder of Snow Leopard Vodka, has dedicated his life and work to maintaining the environment of the critically endangered snow leopard. With a background in the commercial beverage industry, Sparrow decided to leave the corporate world and travel, finding himself in the Himalayas, where he actually saw a snow leopard for the first time.
After discovering the snow leopard’s status as a critically endangered species, he decided to do something about it—which led him to found his own brand, Snow Leopard Vodka. The artisan spirit donates 15% of all profits to the Snow Leopard Trust, a nonprofit that seeks to preserve the environment of the snow leopard, and hence its livelihood. Sparrow’s contributions have made a significant dent in the problem: to date, he has helped raise $305,000 for snow leopard conservation.
“I wanted to really put my business background to work, and now I’ve been involved in snow leopard conservation for over a decade. But when I started, there was no World Snow Leopard Day, or anything of the sort,” he says matter-of-factly. It’s a trait that led to the quality of the vodka, which is made in Poland from a rare spelt grain that’s distilled six times.
World Snow Leopard Day actually came about a few years ago when Kyrgyzstan, one of the species’ most fertile environments, identified one of the largest problems in the field of snow leopard conservation: the lack of communication amidst the distinct entities working on the same problem, and subsequently a lack of real progress. The country’s leadership spearheaded the issue, connecting with the leadership of other range countries to build long-term, coordinated programs to help preserve the snow leopard population. One example is the education of local families about the species. Many have agreed to stop hunting snow leopards, and they contribute by hand-making products from the wool of their livestock to increase their income in return for helping the snow leopards in their region.
World Snow Leopard Day, now on Oct. 23 every year, grew out of that initiative. Sparrow says this kind of collaboration between governments marks a historic sea change in the development of international philanthropic conservation efforts.
However, Sparrow is also quick to remind us that the job is not done—that while governments and disparate entities coming together to make a change is a vital step forward, funding and the immense need still limit the scope of work they’re able to do. “We’ve got to do more,” he says, impassioned. “Even now, we’re working in only a fraction of the communities that can safeguard the snow leopard’s future. We need to raise more money and awareness, and that’s what we try to do specifically for the two weeks around World Snow Leopard Day on Oct. 23.”
So, how can you help aid Sparrow’s mission to snow leopard conservation? Thankfully, the answer is simple and enjoyable. Sparrow, a stalwart St. Louisan transplanted from London, has asked several elite bars and restaurants in St. Louis to develop a specialty cocktail using Snow Leopard Vodka. Each bar will donate $1 from each cocktail to the Snow Leopard Trust, which could have a massive impact—plus, the city’s bartenders will have the opportunity to show off their skills. Sparrow explains that if 25 bars participate and sell 100 cocktails each, that $2,500 can fund five on-the-ground conservation projects in snow leopard habitats where the need remains dire. These conservation projects include educational efforts to work with families in the region who agree to no longer hunt snow leopards, opting to make hand-crafted pieces from the wool of their livestock to sell instead.
The event series, called “Cocktails for Conservation,” will take place over the next few weeks. Participating bars include Wildflower, Oceano, 360, Tani Sushi, Basso and Boundary (scroll down for a complete list). St. Louis serves as the perfect place for the initiative’s first location, particularly as the Saint Louis Zoo is home to two snow leopards. The Zoo also participates in a cooperative breeding program in which multiple zoos work together to help protect the snow leopard population.
Sparrow’s mission is to see the event series grow, with an eventual 10 to 15 cities across the United States celebrating World Snow Leopard Day, and then internationally. “I’m super conscious of the fact that people get asked to participate in a lot of causes. So you’ve got to make it easy and fun,” he says. “I think when you sit down and ask people, ‘Do you care about the gorgeous wildlife on our planet and preserving it?’ I think you’ll find that just about everyone really does.”
Cocktails for Conservation participating restaurants: BBQ Saloon, Wildflower, Dressels, 1764, SubZero, Tenderloin, El Burro Loco, Tani Sushi, Oceano, The BAO, Boundary, Basso, 360 and Hammerstone’s.
This post has been brought to you in part by the mentioned organization. Thank you for supporting the companies that keep ALIVE growing.
All images courtesy of Snow Leopard Vodka.