Sustainability in cocktail bars 'very important for the world right now'

By Rebecca Weller contact

- Last updated on GMT

Little changes have a massive impact: local resources, reusable items, and creative solutions to combat waste are key to sustainability in cocktail bars (Credit: Getty/ MaximFesenko)
Little changes have a massive impact: local resources, reusable items, and creative solutions to combat waste are key to sustainability in cocktail bars (Credit: Getty/ MaximFesenko)

Related tags: Cocktails, Social responsibility, Spirits, Sustainability

The key to sustainability in cocktail bars lies within using local resources, reusable items, and creative solutions to combat waste, according to sustainable cocktail bars across the sector.

At GungHo! cocktail bar in Brighton, East Sussex, everything is reusable.

From espresso coffee grounds being reused to create their own coffee liquor, to using mint storks to make an oleo saccharum, creating an egg white substitute to produce the froth on drinks such as Whisky Sours and compostable straws made of wheat.

Licensee Julien Barnett said: “[Sustainability] is very important for the world right now, we always see news about the sea covered in plastic, it's horrible to see. If everyone does a little bit, then it really helps in a long way, it really has a massive impact.”

Barnett advised using local resources to reduce importation is a key; GungHo! teamed up with a local apple orchard and, instead of importing lemons and limes, now use apple juice from the orchard infused with essential oils to replicate the citric taste.

However, these sustainable efforts can come at a cost and with some difficulties.

Barnett added: “There's a lot of unsellable stock on the side-lines, things we are in the process of making, that's definitely a big expense.

Transforming ingredients 

“The biggest cost is the extra time we take to transform ingredients and make sure we're doing things justice.

“A lot of what we do is prep work, we spend 60 hours a week prepping the menus.”

At Three Little Mercies in Haringey, north London, all the soap used is made on site and rather than dryers, the bar uses cotton hand towels in the toilets.

To make the soap, the bar buys five litres of soap concentrate in reusable jerrycans and dilutes it with salt water and essential oils, which makes around 25 litres of soap and provides huge savings according to licensee Alan Sherwood.

However, the biggest sustainability effort for Three Little Mercies is buying locally and in bulk where possible.

Sherwood said: “Our house gin and vodka come from a company called Victory who distribute in stainless steel kegs and aluminium cans.

“You're supplied in either a fully recycled aluminium can in order to top up your bottles or, if you have the capacity, a 20-litre keg the same as you'd get beer in; we send that back to Victory, they then send it back to us.

“We've saved over four tonnes of CO2 emissions just by using steel kegs from Victory and over nearly 1.5 tonnes of glass.

“We buy our Vermouth from Londinio, a Battersea-based company. It supplies recyclable 10 litre bags and boxes, which saves on shipping because again, it means we can recycle our end, and it’s local so it’s not being shipped from Italy.”

For Sherwood, the best switch Three Little Mercies made was using a full capability recycling company, which reduced general waste by between 75% to 90%, with the bar only putting one quarter-full bag of unusable waste out for collection fortnightly.

Streamlining recycling 

He said: “The kitchen and the bar produce a certain amount of fully biodegradable food waste, but without that [capability recycling] system in place to have it collected and used as either a biomass fuel or compostable material, it's very difficult to address that issue. It’s such an easy solution in terms of streamlining what we can do and how we can recycle.”

While the extra recycling has doubled the bars monthly recycling costs and buying spirits in bulk can also be costly, Three Little Mercies manages to offset the extra cost through things like making their own soap, reusing, and rewashing cloths on site and no longer printing receipts.

In order to maintain and develop the sustainable efforts being made in cocktail bars, Sherwood explained sharing knowledge and ideas was imperative.

Sherwood added: “One of the things I'm really keen on this year is a statement on what we do, detailing the processes we go through to open a conversation with regards to sustainability throughout the industry.

“If various bars put forward what they do and their processes, if we were to collate all of that information, there'd be a huge resource of ideas.

“I want to try and create some space where we can start having that conversation and start teaching each other.”

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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