The No Waste Cocktail Movement Has Reinvigorated Drink Menus
Here's where to find the best in delicious, food-waste-forward drinks, featuring everything from frozen rinds to whey byproduct.
Washington, D.C.’s Barmini is probably not the place you gather for a post-work happy hour. The futuristic cocktail lounge from award-winning chef José Andrés serves technique-driven drinks that draw on elements like smoke, fire, and liquid nitrogen, challenging guests to get a little uncomfortable. Designed by Miguel Lancha, Cocktail Innovator at Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, the theatrically-presented cocktail flights rotate seasonally and revolve around a single theme, like "childhood memories," which featured a sweet pea and carrot brandy cocktail served in a baby food jar, labeled with the bartenders’ baby pictures.
The next installment of the series will shine a light on a cause that’s important to Andrés, the restaurant group, and a growing number of bar managers around the country: the reduction of food waste.
“Many of us come from different countries," says Lancha. "We were talking about when we were kids, our relatives would say, ‘Don't throw away that food!’ So it’s about going back to roots and being conscious.”
Andrés has long championed the reduction of food waste, and while Barmini has always found creative ways to reuse ingredients—making ash from oven-dried citrus rinds and sprinkling it over drinks for a bright and smoky finish, or soaking post-juiced fruits to make a stock, for example—this new series, set to launch in August, will feature six cocktails that use every single part of each ingredient.
A pineapple might be used for its juice, pulp, skin, core, and fronds, any of which can be used in the drink, or as a garnish or vessel. The cocktail innovator and his team hope their no waste series will inspire guests to think about all the creative ways they can reduce food waste at home.
Below, find nine more restaurants and bars around the country also making delicious use of traditionally-trashed ingredients, and let it inspire your own creative cocktails.
Such Sweet Thunder, Nightbell, Asheville
Chef Katie Button draws on local and foraged ingredients for her popular Asheville restaurants (she also owns Spanish tapas bar Curate), and the bar program uses an equally sustainable approach. Cocktail program director Phoebe Emson makes a summer old fashioned using a light-bodied whiskey, falernum dram, and sunflower syrup. The latter is the byproduct when the kitchen candies sunflower seeds, which are used on the restaurant’s Sumac roasted carrot dish.
Rest in Pete’s, Spice Finch, Philadelphia
At the brand new Rittenhouse Square spot from chefs Jennifer Carroll and Billy Riddle, lemons are zested over many of the dishes on the modern Mediterranean menu. Beverage director Michael Haggerty then uses the rest, first in drinks that call for fresh lemon juice, and then, whatever is left after service, in his frozen cocktails. “The addition of alcohol and frozen temperature acts to preserve the juice so it doesn't go bad,” he says. The bar’s most popular cocktail includes vodka, turmeric, saffron, and preserved lemon, which he gets from the kitchen’s lemon preserving process. Haggerty takes the waste juice and cuts it with fresh lemon juice to boost the flavor profile and add a savory undertone.
Secondary Colour, Pacific Standard Time, Chicago
Bar director Scott Stroemer makes strawberry-infused vodka with the kitchen’s leftover trimmings, tops, and leaves at this California-inspired restaurant in Chicago's River North neighborhood. He mixes the vodka with lillet, lemon, and dry lavender soda for this summertime favorite.
Old Fashioned, Fond, Philadelphia
At this charming, contemporary American restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue, general manager Adam Judeh gives the classic old fashioned a new twist, making simple syrup using spent oranges. The fruit is first grilled, then poached in liquid sugar, and the resulting syrup is used in place of the drink’s standard sugar cube.
Titi Monkey, ArtScience Culture Lab & Café, Cambridge
The cocktail menu at this sleek cafe uses waste from both the kitchen and bar in most of the drinks. Bar director Tenzin Samdo makes oleo-saccharum with citrus peels, then dehydrates the candied peels into a powder garnish for drinks. When the kitchen makes cheese, the whey byproduct becomes and ingredient, too, and for the aromatic Titi Monkey, Samdo uses a washed egg shell to hold the cocktail’s daily-changing emulsion foam.
Chef’s Margarita, I|O Godfrey, Chicago
The swanky rooftop restaurant, executive chef Nathaniel Cayer not only oversees the menu, but he also crafts the cocktails—many that feature sustainably-sourced ingredients. His signature margarita is topped with a habanero salt foam that uses past-their-peak habanero peppers, dehydrated, and transformed into a spicy, salty foam, and the Rainbow Sangria is colorful frozen puréed ice cubes, each made from the scraps of a different fruit.
Urban Forager, Urban Farmer, Denver
The Matsutake mushrooms used to infuse the whiskey in the Urban Forager cocktail get a second life in some of the dishes at this modern steakhouse. Other ingredients include Strega liqueur, and honey and bee pollen from the restaurant’s rooftop beehives.
Flying Dutchman, Cultivar, Boston
Chef Mary Dumont's team uses both the acidified watermelon and its frozen rind in this fresh and boozy cocktail that combines Diep9 Genever, bourbon, and aperol.
Painkiller, Bresca, Washington, D.C.
At this modern bistro, chef Ryan Ratino’s commitment to sustainability means both the kitchen and bar team up with creative ways to minimize waste. The tuna dish currently on the menu is made using coconut fat, and the milk from the same coconut is combined with rum, 151, pineapple, and nutmeg for a tropical getaway in a glass.