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Sustainable Cocktail Making Tips: The Eco-Friendly Bar

Have you ever realized how wasteful cocktail making is – on a larger scale? Fortunately there are lots of tips to help you make your cocktails more sustainable.

Overhead shot of Garnet Crow cocktail with mint sprig


Cocktail Waste

What exactly are we talking about here? Single use cocktail umbrellas and straws. Food waste when we use a fruit for garnish, but throw most of the fruit away. Ingredients being shipped from across the world.

There’s a lot you can do to reduce this waste and excessive consumption, though. And the good news is: it’s fun and creative and it still tastes delicious!

The Emerging Concept of Sustainable Cocktail Making

Sustainable cocktail making involves using ingredients that are locally sourced, reducing waste, and adopting eco-friendly practices.

For bars, it can be a real challenge to embrace these new practices. But at home, it’s so easy. Once you’ve made a few changes, you’ll never look back.

Reduce Your Food Waste

Let’s start with the obvious. Food waste is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions. Reducing food waste is one of the best things individuals can do.

Here are some examples of how that applies to cocktail making:

Use every part of the fruit: Instead of discarding lemon peels or herb stems, explore creative ways to incorporate them into your cocktails. Lemon peels can be used to infuse syrups or create garnishes, while herb stems can be muddled to extract their flavors.

Upcycle ingredients: Leftover fruit pulp from juicing can be repurposed as a base for homemade sour mixes, shrubs or infused waters. Similarly, citrus peels can be dried and used to make homemade bitters.

Compost: Establish a composting system to dispose of organic waste, such as fruit peels and leftover herbs. Composting not only reduces waste but also provides nutrient-rich soil for your garden.

Incorporate Homemade Syrups and Infusions

Take all the leftover bits of fruit and ugly ones that didn’t make it to a cocktail glass rim. Put them in infusion bottles and make delicious new ingredients for your own creative cocktails!

This way you’re using up every bit of the fruit and doing something delicious and creative.

For example: if you’ve cut all the lime slices you can get out of this particular lime, juice the rest of it and save that for your next batch of homemade sour mix.

Now take the shell that’s left from your lime, cut it into pieces and put it in an infusions flask with vodka or rum. After a couple of weeks, it will become lime infused vodka or rum, which you use in cocktails.

Strain out the fruit from that mix and you can use it in making homemade sour mix, too.

  1. Make your own syrups: Instead of buying commercial ones that have to be trucked from who-knows-where and contain all kinds of additives, your syrups will be the real homemade deal.
  2. Infuse homemade blends: Experiment with infusing spirits using homemade fruit, herb, or spice blends to create customized flavor profiles.
  3. Try homemade bitters or tinctures: Take it a step further by creating your own bitters or tinctures using ingredients you can forage or find locally.
  4. Make larger batches: Reduce packaging waste by making larger batches of homemade syrups or infusions that can be stored and used for future cocktails.
  5. Share your creations: Share your homemade concoctions with friends and family to inspire them to try their hand at sustainable cocktail making as well.

Locally Sourced Ingredients

One of the key aspects of sustainable cocktail making is using locally sourced ingredients. By using ingredients that are grown or produced nearby, you reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation.

This isn’t always possible with liquor, but where you can really get into local sourcing is with fruit, herbs and any other botanicals you put in or around your cocktails.

Look for locally grown produce at farmer’s markets. Grow your own if you can and want to!

Choosing Eco-Friendly Spirits

It’s not always possible to find an eco-friendly spirit for every recipe. And sometimes it takes a lot of research, and you’re standing there in the liquor store ready to buy something right now, but you can’t figure out what’s sustainable.

Just do the best you can. Over time, hopefully more and more manufacturers will embrace better practices.

  1. Look for spirits produced with organic or sustainably grown ingredients. This means that the ingredients used in the production process have been cultivated without the use of harmful pesticides or chemicals.
  2. Opt for spirits made using renewable energy sources in the distillation process. This reduces the carbon footprint associated with the production of the spirits.
  3. If possible, buy spirits from companies that support environmental initiatives or have eco-friendly certifications. This shows that the company is committed to sustainable practices and reducing their impact on the environment.
  4. Explore locally produced spirits to reduce transportation emissions. By choosing locally produced spirits, you can support local businesses and reduce the carbon emissions associated with long-distance transportation.
  5. Check if the distillery has a commitment to water conservation and waste reduction. Some distilleries take extra steps to conserve water and minimize waste during the production process, making them more environmentally friendly choices.

Reconsider Garnish

Stop using any single-use garnishes, like cocktail umbrellas. No garnish should just be thrown away.

  1. Just don’t garnish. Even bars are embracing this concept. Garnish is lovely, but you don’t really need it.
  2. Edible garnishes: Use edible garnishes like fruit slices, berries, or herbs that can be consumed along with the drink, reducing waste.
  3. Herb sprigs: Garnish cocktails with fresh herb sprigs like mint, basil, or rosemary. These can be composted after use.
  4. Citrus peels: Instead of using plastic or non-edible garnishes, use citrus peels in various shapes to add a pop of flavor and aroma to the drink.
  5. Reusable cocktail picks: Opt for reusable metal or bamboo cocktail picks instead of disposable plastic ones.
  6. Stainless steel or glass straws: If your cocktail requires a straw, consider using reusable stainless steel or glass straws instead of single-use plastic straws.
  7. Wooden swizzle sticks: Use biodegradable wooden swizzle sticks instead of plastic stirrers.
  8. Upcycled garnishes: Get creative with garnishes by repurposing fruit or vegetable scraps, like using watermelon rinds as edible cups or turning citrus peels into twists.
  9. Herb-infused ice cubes: Freeze herbs or edible flowers into ice cubes for a visually appealing and sustainable garnish.
  10. Dried fruit or flowers: Use dried fruit slices or edible flowers as garnishes, which can be composted after use.
  11. Bamboo skewers: If you need skewers for garnishing, choose bamboo skewers, which are biodegradable.
  12. Local and seasonal garnishes: Choose garnishes that are locally sourced and in-season to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation.
  13. DIY flavored salts or sugars: Make flavored salts or sugars infused with herbs or citrus zest to rim the glasses. Store them in reusable containers.
  14. Candied fruit or vegetables: Create candied citrus peels or other fruits and vegetables for a sweet and sustainable garnish.

Replace Fruit Juice In Cocktail Ingredients

Fresh squeezed citrus juices are among the most food wasting ingredients and cocktail recipes. Some bartenders are now trying to replace them wherever they can.

Instead of using fresh fruit juice, what about a homemade syrup or infusion made from fruit? These can give you the same pop of flavor as fresh juice without you having to cut into any fruit.

The trick is to figure out the right ratios of ingredients.

Use Low-Impact Mixing Techniques

When it comes to sustainable cocktail making, the way you mix your ingredients can also have an impact. Here are some tips for low-impact mixing techniques:

  1. Shake cocktails vigorously by hand instead of relying on electric cocktail shakers to save energy. Not only will this reduce the electricity you use, it just makes you look cooler.
  2. Try blending or muddling ingredients instead of pureeing or juicing to minimize energy consumption. Blending or muddling ingredients can be a more sustainable alternative to using electric appliances like blenders or juicers. And it can yield whole new flavors.
  3. Opt for manual ice crushing methods rather than using electric ice crushers. Crushing ice manually can be a simple way to reduce energy consumption in your cocktail-making process. Also a great way to work out stress.
  4. Explore innovative mixing techniques like fat-washing or smoke infusion to add flavor without excessive energy usage. Get creative with your mixing techniques by trying out methods like fat-washing (infusing spirits with fats) or smoke infusion to enhance flavors without relying on excessive energy usage.

Turn Leftover Wine Into Cocktails

If you don’t finish a bottle of wine, don’t worry. Use a vacuum pump wine preserver so it stays as good as possible, and use it the next day or so to make wine cocktails.

Embrace Seasonal Cocktails

Connected with going local is letting the seasons dictate your recipes. Seasonal fruits and herbs not only taste better but are also easier to find locally.

Embrace the flavors of each season by incorporating fresh berries in the summer or warm spices in the winter. Experiment with different combinations to create unique and refreshing seasonal cocktails that reflect the bounty of nature.

Eco-Friendly Glassware and Bar Tools

When it comes time to replace what you have now, look for:

  • Opt for glasses made from recycled materials or glassware produced using sustainable manufacturing practices.
  • Choose glassware that is dishwasher safe to minimize water consumption during cleaning.
  • Avoid using unnecessary plastic or paper decorations on glassware to reduce waste.
  • Consider using mason jars or other repurposed containers as unique and sustainable glassware options. Decorate it if you want. Get creative.
  • Avoid plastic straws. Stop using straws where possible, and when they’re necessary go for stainless steel straws that can be washed and reused.
  • Choose bar tools made from sustainable materials such as bamboo or stainless steel.