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Zero-waste cocktails bring sustainability to the bar

Published: June 2021

Zero-waste cocktails bring sustainability to the bar 

Could a cocktail save the planet? 

We’re all looking for ways to live more sustainably – from what we eat to what we wear and even how we drink. The growing zero-waste cocktail movement seeks to conserve natural resources, keep waste out of landfills and use ingredients to their full potential.  

Not only are sustainable practices great for the environment, they can be great for your bottom line, too – both by saving on produce costs and in attracting new eco-conscious consumers to your business.  

Sustainable mixology is the future of the industry. Here are a few simple ways to get started:  

Think local 

When it comes to sustainability, sourcing nearby ingredients is a no-brainer: less packaging, fewer emissions, fresher ingredients. Plus, you (and your guests) can feel good about supporting another local business. Let local, seasonal produce inspire you to think outside the box with your cocktail menu. Or, go hyperlocal: Grow your own!  

Put a chill on ice 

Did you know that large cubed ice machines waste about 50 percent of their water? Talk about a drain on your business! While ice can bring out the flavor in high-end liquors and keep a cocktail cool on a hot day, but it’s not always necessary. Pre-batching and chilling mixed drinks in the fridge or freezer ensures they’ll be ice cold when they get to guests. Another option? No ice at all, or only upon request. 

Mind your rinds 

Have you ever thought about how many lemon and lime rinds you trash after juicing? Consider how those leftover pieces of fruit could be put to good use. Infuse liquors or simple syrups with fresh citrus flavor, or create oleo saccharum, an oil-infused syrup made from peels and sugar. You can also get that same acidic kick from nonperishable alternatives like dried fruit or citric and malic acids. 

Learn to ‘upcycle’ 

Don’t toss out that “ugly” or ready-to-expire ingredient, find a new use for it. Not-so-pretty berries can be muddled into fruity cocktails. Less-than-fresh wines can be passed to the kitchen to create reductions, vinegars and sauces. Even blackened bananas can be turned into tasty wine. Ready for more? Try your hand at fermentation to create sodas, wine or tepache. The possibilities are limited only by your scraps! 

Throw out the trash 

Reducing single-use items is top of mind for eco-conscious consumers, and thankfully, limiting the amount of plastic packaging tossed out each day is an easy-to-implement change everyone will feel good about. When a cocktail calls for a straw for sipping or stirring, make a simple swap for a reusable metal or edible straw (think cinnamon stick or lemongrass). For other beverages, only provide a straw or cocktail napkin when asked.   

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