Many of the world’s best bartenders and spirits brands are prioritizing sustainability and for good reason - it’s become clear that we must all practice more conscientious decision-making with regards to our individual and collective environmental footprints. For the sustainably-minded home bartender, these kinds of practices include supporting local and eco-friendly brands and stretching your home bar budget through waste reduction and deliciously simple recipes.
Check out this graphic from Camille @thecocktailsnob_ who starts us off with 5 easy tips, then read on for more!
Whenever possible, source your cocktail ingredients locally. By stocking your home bar with local products and ingredients, you’ll help to reduce carbon emissions, support your local economy and feel more connected to what’s in your glass. Sure, you could have a bunch of exotic-sounding spirits, mixers and other ingredients shipped to you from halfway across the world (and we’re not saying that you never should), but the fact is that there are probably small makers selling fantastic products and ingredients nearby that are just as good, if not better.
Setting seasonal limitations on your creations can actually help to spark creativity - not to mention the difference you’ll notice in the quality and flavor of your creations when you start to use fresh, local and in-season produce.
Grow Your Own Ingredients
It doesn’t get more local or sustainable than growing your own! If you’re fortunate enough to have the resources to grow fruits and vegetables outdoors, you’ll understand just how deliciously satisfying it can be to partake in the fruits of your labor in a fresh-from-the-garden cocktail. Even if you don’t have an outdoor garden, all you need is a sunny window to grow your own indoor herbs. Feeling uncertain about introducing savory elements into your cocktails? Try these:
Spirit-Free Cucumber Basil Smash
Make Your Own Infusions
Cut down on food waste by using ugly and past-prime fruits, vegetables and herbs to make your own infusions and liqueurs. Check out these online resources for inspiration:
Infused Spirits from The Art of Preserving, from ckbk
How to Make Homemade Fruit Liqueur, from The View from Great Island
Make Your Own Syrups
Another easy way to use up those extra fruits and herbs is by turning them into homemade syrups. Check out these online resources for inspiration:
Basic Recipe for Fresh Fruit Syrup, from The Spruce Eats
How to Make Herb Infused Simple Syrups, from Tori Avey
Citrus is a crucial component in a multitude of cocktails, but depending on where you live you might not have access to fresh citrus fruits year-round. Don’t fret! By stocking up on citrus when in season (or whenever you see them on sale) and dehydrating them before they go bad, you’ll be able to garnish with that pleasant pop of acidity all year. Even if you don’t have a dehydrator at home, you can easily dehydrate fresh produce in your oven. Citrus is an ideal candidate for dehydration, however you can also use this method for other fruits and vegetables including apples, bananas, pineapple, beets, tomatoes and more.
Stretch Your Citrus
Speaking of citrus, these small but mighty fruits can really stretch your home bartending budget if you use them right! Fresh citrus can make all the difference in a cocktail, but make sure to utilize their full potential before tossing them in the compost pile. For instance, if you squeeze your own citrus juices (kudos to you if you do!), don’t throw out the peels afterwards - use them to infuse spirits or make oleo saccharum. Similarly, if you use whole citrus for garnish, make sure to juice the leftover fruit before composting. Use the juice for making fresh sour mix or citrus syrup.
Compost Your Scraps
After you’ve stretched your fresh produce as far as it can go (using the tips listed above), toss the scraps in the compost instead of in the trash (that goes for any edible garnishes you don’t eat, too). Look into composting services near you or if you have the resources, build your own (check into whether your community has compost-specific regulations before starting this kind of project). You’ll be surprised by how much of your food waste can be composted: coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, newspaper, fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells and more.
Repurpose Old(ish) Wine
Chances are you’ve had to dump a few past-their-prime open bottles of wine over the years. Not only is this a waste of money and resources, it also just feels super sad, right?! Thankfully, there’s an ingenious way to use up those partial bottles: Wine Syrup. Most recipes call for a 3:1 ratio of wine to sugar, cooked down to about a third of the volume, bottled and refrigerated. You can do this for both red and white wines - and don’t worry about mixing bottles, it’s all good! White Wine Syrup pairs nicely with light spirits like gin and vodka, bitter and floral flavors like Elderflower and Campari, and spritzy summer drinks like White Sangria. Red Wine Syrup is fabulous with dark spirits like rum and brandy, alongside cold-weather flavors like maple and cinnamon, and in bold drinks like Mulled Cider and the New York Sour.
Ditch The Unnecessary Garnishes
Focus on garnishing your drinks with edible and compostable options like fresh or dehydrated fruits, veggies and herbs. Ditch the paper napkins and replace paper straws and garnish picks with washable bamboo or stainless steel versions.
Nearly every cocktail requires ice to chill and/or serve. One way to reduce your water and energy use is by pre-batching cocktails and chilling them in the fridge until ready to serve. You can do this for any cocktail served neat (or without ice) that calls for stirring instead of shaking, such as Manhattans, Negronis and classic Old Fashioneds. This simple, efficient and energy-saving technique is ideal for cocktail parties, social gatherings and post-work wind-downs.
Support Sustainable Spirits Brands
Supporting your local distilleries, farmers and small businesses is one of the best ways to make your home bar more sustainable. However, there are additional spirits brands focusing on environmental initiatives that are worthy of your support, including Flor de Caña Rum, Ilegal Mezcal, Prairie Organic Spirits, and Koval Distillery. Learn more about what makes liquor brands sustainable here.
Repurpose Empty Liquor Bottles
Don’t throw away those empty bottles just yet. Fill them with water to take along on picnics and road trips, use them to store, transport and serve batched cocktails (such a cute way to BYOB), or use them to store finished infusions and syrups and even as infusion vessels (the narrow mouth will limit you to primarily herb and spice infusions, but that’s okay). Outside of the kitchen, upcycled liquor bottles make great flower vases, candle stick holders and piggy banks. Of course, recycling is a fine way to dispose of your bottles, too.
Stock Up On Vintage Glassware
Serve your home cocktails in vintage glassware and they’ll not only look funkier, you’ll also be saving those glasses from a trip to the landfill. Pop in to your favorite local secondhand and antique stores and you’re bound to find an array of unique, well-made glassware - often for a lower price than buying new.
The most obvious of all sustainability practices is to conserve. However if your mixer comes in a non-resealable bottle and you waste an ounce or two every time you make a cocktail, that adds up. Each bottle of Top Note Sparkling Mixers is ideal for two standard highballs or one large drink, and the resealable bottle caps make it convenient to place back in the fridge whenever you have some left over.
If your mixer doesn't have a resealable cap, be sure to plan the size and quantity of your drink based on the size of your mixers bottle. The more cocktails per bottle the better, and with Top Note Tonic you don't have to waste anything!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things you haven’t been doing - and all the things you could be doing - take a moment to breathe. Sure, there’s a lot of work to be done, but there’s no use beating yourself up over initiatives you didn’t know you could’ve been taking.
When considering ingredients for stocking your home bar, ask yourself (or the internet): “How was it made? How am I sourcing it? How far will it travel to reach me?”. Before throwing food away, ask yourself whether it can be used for an additional purpose (see the tips above for dehydrating produce, stretching your citrus, and making infusions, liqueurs, and syrups). Every step you take is a step in a positive direction.