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Turn Trash Into Drinkable Treasures

Turn Trash Into Drinkable Treasures

Transform your kitchen’s food waste into delicious cocktails

Last spring, Chicago’s Broken Shaker inside the Freehand Hotel hosted a pop-up for London’s Trash Tiki movement. At the time, bar manager Scotty LoBianco didn't know much about it, but thought it was a passing fad. Diving into it deeper and then experiencing it first hand turned LoBianco into a believer. Now he and his staff employ Trash Tiki’s sustainable message of taking spent food items – citrus rinds, pineapple husks, coffee grounds – daily to get more use out of them.

“It’s cost effective and sustainable in that you get a second and third use of things,” LoBianco says. “It’s extra work for my team to be conscientious daily to not get rid of things like mint stems or making orgeat out of almond pastries. But it's inspiring and not as difficult as I thought it could be.”

So now, the Broken Shaker bar team works with its kitchen as well as on-site Café Integral to get as much use out of as many ingredients as possible for use in cocktails. Coffee grounds get turned into coffee liqueur or syrup. Fresh fruit from continental breakfast gets turned into a berry cordial. Used oranges from Old Fashioneds become a house curacao. Citrus rinds squeezed for juice get dehydrated and used as garnish. LoBianco also created a new section on the menu – Sustainable Sips – featuring three rotating drinks comprising used ingredients. One dollar from each sale is donated to a local charity.

“It’s cost detrimental to throw stuff away daily,” LoBianco adds. “Most restaurants operate 25 percent to 45 percent on food cost; that’s because we’re throwing stuff away every single day. If we’re spending $150 a day on fresh citrus, you can take about a third of that away.”

When it opened in Brooklyn in 2016, part of Olmsted's mission was to be a zero waste restaurant. Chef Greg Baxtrom and his team grow produce, herbs, flowers and more in its backyard garden and have a living wall inside the restaurant. One ingredient, lemon balm, gets combined with grilled lemon rinds to make a Scotch-based iced tea cocktail. Salted cucumber water is added to a refreshing gin cocktail with yellow chartreuse and lime juice.

“The whole industry is making a concerted effort to waste less in general,” says Olmsted general manager Max Katzenberg. “People are looking at what they have and realize it doesn’t have to go into the garbage, but can get repurposed into something fun and delicious. We have so much food coming into our restaurants and have to maximize what we’re using.”

Not only will you help your bottom line and the environment, it helps keep you creative. Finding new uses for different ingredients you might otherwise throw away can help churn new ideas for your bar program.

“Every day it’s a little bit new,” LoBianco says. “So if you feel stagnant, look at the garbage and see what you can do differently.”

You never know where your next great sustainable, money-saving idea will come from.

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