Building a Sustainable Cocktail Program
By Doug Radkey – 04/05/2019
Let’s be honest, the traditional bar setting serving cocktails is an environmental nightmare.
Let’s think about it; there is high use of energy within ice machines, refrigeration, and glass cleaning appliances. There is enormous waste in garnishes, straws, bottles, and napkins (to name a few). And finally, there are corporate wineries, distilleries, and breweries producing a large carbon footprint delivering spirits to the bar.
When it comes to bars; (or any other food & beverage service provider) the producers, manufacturers, delivery drivers, owners, managers, and servers ultimately share the responsibility to create an enjoyable guest experience within ones concept. As we have seen with restaurant kitchens over the past 3-5 years, there is now also a ‘movement’ towards eco-friendly and sustainable bars, something many guests are seeking as part of their desired experience.
On the surface, it may sound like an easy change, but creating cocktails in particular that are ‘sustainable’ (zero waste), is in-fact difficult to produce while maintaining the required quality, speed, and profit margins both operators and guests, look for.
So how can independent bars make a simple impact within this craft-cocktail ‘movement’? Let’s begin to have a look at some strategies (#barhacks) that one can implement starting today:
Re-Purposed Ingredients – How can you use 100% of an ingredient? Start by looking at the beverage menu. How large is it? Does it have focus? What ingredients are used in each and every drink that’s made? Which ones are used for infused flavour versus visual appeal? Which ingredients are only partially used with the remaining components discarded into compost, for example fruit scraps? Review each drink and look for ways to re-purpose ingredients and their counter-parts, within both the bar and/or kitchen.
Edible Garnishes – Obviously, cocktail garnishes are decorative ‘ornaments’ that often add character or style to a cocktail. They are often used to complement and enhance the flavours in a drink by stimulating the special nerve cells in our nose and mouth. The days of plastic straws, festive umbrellas, plastic skewers, and other non-edibles however, need to stop. Instead, use fresh fruits, flavour infused salts, edible stir sticks, edible flowers, house-made flavor-infused lollipops on candy sticks (yes), and steel skewers for olives and other edible garnishes, if so desired.
Energy Conservation – Take a close look at your glassware and how it is washed. Are you using over-sized glasses (ie. martini glasses) that are taking up too much space on the wash-rack, leading to unnecessary additional washes (which costs money and uses more detergents)? How many glasses could you fit if you changed glassware sizes?
How much ice are you using in each drink? Does the beverage really need ice or could the glass be simply pre-chilled? Take a look at your menu, glassware, fridge space, freezer space, and use of ice machine. Is there a way to reduce used energy within the bar itself to help create sustainable cocktails?
Supply Chain Management – Transparency, traceability, and accountability must be a top concern when deciding on vendors to ensure all products (both food and beverage) entering your bar or other food service business, are not only safe & sustainable for your customers, but for your community. Work with beer, wine, and spirit makers who are equally trying to make a difference. With the growth of local distilleries, breweries, wineries, and produce suppliers; supporting local and reducing the carbon footprint within a bar, is so much easier! Collaborate and work together to make a difference.
In summary, don’t start a goal of 100% zero waste or sustainability – it’s likely not going to happen overnight. Instead, set SMART realistic goals to reduce waste by 15 or 30% over the next 6 to 12 months to begin building a sustainable cocktail and/or bar venue. Once that goal is obtained – double down on that goal for the next 6 to 12 months. You and your customers will notice a positive difference!