As people explore the many ways to fight back against the massive food waste problem it often involves ideas like buying food past its sell-by date and making compost—important to be sure, but you’ll have to forgive us if we enjoy the new trend of turning food scraps into excellent cocktails instead. As more and more restaurants look down on the sin of throwing out perfectly useable food, cocktails are popping up on elite menus made of ingredients that would otherwise get thrown away. Here, five boozy examples.
The Beet Royale – Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, CA
Chef Jeremy Fox found an excess of unused beet juice leftover from his dehydrated “beet soil” in RC’s innovative beet and berries dish. Instead of tossing it out, he infused it with rose geranium (an African flower) and had bar manager Aaron Ranf create a play on the classic Kir royale with gin, lemon and prosecco.
Lavender Vinegar – Niche, St. Louis, MO
Bartender Joel Burton repurposed lavender vinegar used in a dish taken off the Niche menu and made it into a gel along with St. George’s Botanivore gin, Contratto Bianco vermouth, simple syrup and lemon for a unique experience on his cocktail tasting menu.
Dirty Agua – Dia de Campo, Hermosa Beach, CA
The upscale Mexican spot features a killer chocolate duck quesadilla (not as weird as it sounds) made with a tamarind mixture. Beverage manager Dave Keenan decided to utilize the extra tamarind along with tequila, blood orange and pomegranate for a sweet, bubbly cocktail.
The Swanson – Steak & Whisky, Hermosa Beach, CA
Literally right across the street from Dia de Campo you can find the meaty swanson cocktail. Whiskey, barrel-smoked maple syrup and bitters are garnished with dehydrated scraps from Chef John Shaw’s steak tartare and charcuterie boards.
The Swanson from Steak & Whisky
No Whey – Restaurant 1833, Monterey, CA
Chef Jason Franey makes all the ricotta for his beet salad in-house and that means that every week he has lots of leftover whey. For reasons no one may fully understand he thought that whey sounded like a fantastic cocktail ingredient. Turns out he was right. He mixes it with cognac, lemon and simple syrup. It’s clearly working because serving it up in cocktails saves the restaurant 2 gallons of whey every week.