Where's Your Proof?
Spirit-free or low-ABV drinks can boost your bar’s sustainability
Since more consumers seek out spirit-free drinks and sober-curious lifestyles, bartenders across the country have gotten inventive with non-alcoholic drinks. This has also encouraged many to get creative with ingredients and products, helping them become more sustainable behind the bar.
Tyler Zielinski, the creative director at Lawrence Park, a natural wine and cocktail bar in Hudson, N.Y., says while there may not be an immediate connection between low- or no-proof drinks and sustainability, he admits you being resourceful with non-alcoholic ingredients can lead to more sustainability.
“Since you are less bound by booze, you can focus on whole utilization of ingredients to come up with a drink concept,” Zielinski says. “If you have a back-of-house staff, you can connect with them on scraps they typically toss, but that the bar can utilize into making a syrup, shrub, etc.”
By not wasting ingredients, you help cut back on food waste that ultimately rots and produces methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that gets emitted into the atmosphere. Vinny Starble, the bar manager at Chicago’s vegetable-driven restaurant Bad Hunter, adds you should think about how you can use an ingredient two or three times. Spent ingredients may be turned into vinegars and pickles. Citrus wedges cut for service may be turned into a citrus cordial, which Starble then uses in cocktails in lieu of basic syrups or liqueurs. Go one step further and replace fresh citrus with lactic, malic or citric acids. Ultimately, these things all can save you money.
“By using ingredients multiple times, you need to spend less money creating flavors and can cut down on restaurant waste as well,” says Starble, who will often work with the kitchen staff to re-use what that team may consider waste. “Plus, when you start to purchase seasonally, you notice things become cheaper.”
With buying in season, you help cut down on transportation costs and impact. Also, be mindful of packaging and buying plastic like squeeze bottles. At Provisions in Austin, Texas, chef/owner Albert Gonzalez, who spearheaded his restaurant’s low- and no-proof drink program, suggests using emptied and sanitized liquor bottles for fresh juices, syrups and other things that normally go into squeeze bottles that break down quicker than glass.
“Every step taken toward sustainability has impact, regardless of the benefit for the restaurant. It’s simply the right thing to do and that makes it worthwhile. I can sleep better knowing we tried.”
- Albert Gonzalez
Chef/Owner of Provisions