Trash Tiki: Turning Waste into Artisan Cocktails

When it comes to cocktails, most drinkers aren’t thinking about the amount of excess waste created every single night. Truth be told, there is a surprising amount of waste ranging from the simply discarded lemons and lime wedges to the throwaway garnishes like herbs and berries.

In fact the waste is so substantial that it’s lead to a new concept in cocktail making: Zero-waste cocktails. It’s a new trend that’s been taking off in some of the most creative bars across the globe and even sparked a global tour called “Trash Tiki.”

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Founded by London-based award-winning bartenders Kelsey Ramage (Dandelyan) and Iain Griffiths (Mr. Lyan), the project aims to bring more attention to the growing movement of zero-waste cocktails.

“We had a firsthand look at what the craft cocktail community was throwing away on a daily basis and realized that too many bars believe that it’s too big of a problem to turn around,” said Kelsey Ramage, co-founder of Trash Tiki. “We wanted to prove that you do not need to be an extreme eco-warrior to do something about it. It’s about making small, easy changes while at the same time showing that you can still be loud, fast, and fun while making good drinks that don’t mess up the planet.”

They aren’t the only ones attempting to redefine the way we look at the waste from the cocktail industry. Take for example the Tin Roof Drink Community in San Francisco. Extensive research was done to investigate the footprint of each cocktail and piece of equipment used to find room for improvement, from the method they use to rinse tools to the shape of glassware and how well it stacks in the dishwasher. The bar is focused on a few key tenets: reduce water waste; conserve energy from refrigeration and lighting; responsibly source and transport ingredients; and repurpose bar byproducts.

Initiatives like these have been hailed by the cocktail industry as a revolutionary step forward in shining a light on the waste produced from your favourite libations. Take for example drink straws, a generally unnecessary addition to a cocktail — it’s estimated that America alone uses 500 million straws a day. Every single straw takes 200 years to break down.

This fact wasn’t lost on Jimmy’s in Aspen, Colorado. In 2014, they started offering straws only on customer request; since then they’ve stopped offering bottled water, eliminated table cloths and installed energy-efficient lighting. But the biggest initiative has been to create a composting program facilitated by Aspen’s forward-thinking trash service, which offers training and provides materials. Jimmy’s now composts 75 per cent of their trash.

Repurposing cocktail waste isn’t a trend that is confined to bars and restaurants, either. At home bartenders can utilize leftover citrus skins (lemons, limes, grapefruits, etc.) to create flavourful syrups or citrus-based stocks to add new elements to classic cocktails.

Take for example the cocktail below, which utilizes grapefruit skins as a stock base and spent corn cobs to create a unique syrup. This is just one of many wholly creative cocktails that can be derived from elements in your kitchen that you’d otherwise toss out.

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COB SODA

  • 1oz Tequila Cabeza
  • 1/2 oz amontillado sherry
  • 1/2 oz corn cob syrup*
  • 1/2 oz grapefruit stock**
  • 1oz soda
  • 1 corn husk sliver

Add all ingredients to a high ball glass filled with ice. Stir to mix and chill ingredients and garnish with a strip of corn husk.

*Corn cob syrup

  • 5 cobs of corn
  • 1L water
  • 1kg sugar

Boil cobs in water for five minutes, strain off and add sugar to water. Stir to dissolve and bottle up! Should last (refrigerated) about two days.

**Grapefruit stock

  • 2 cups of water
  • Husks of 2 grapefruits
  • 1 tsp. citric acid
  • ½ tsp. malic acid
  • 1 cup of caster sugar

Bring water to a boil, and add grapefruit husks. Let simmer for five minutes. Then, use tongs remove husks and give a quick squeeze. Remove pot from heat quickly and measure your liquid. Place back on high heat and reduce by 50 per cent to one cup. Add sugar and acid and stir to dissolve. Filter and bottle. It will last up to three days.

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