There’s a new rising renaissance, a sustainable one happening in the cocktail world. But, what makes these heady concoctions “sustainable cocktails”? And, should you be drinking them?

There’s one thing when it comes to sipping exotic drinks – you’re relaxed and your mind doesn’t want to think about those piled up work. So, when we drink, naturally we do not think about the environment, climate change or how harmful can that cocktail actually be. So, would that make cocktails not affect nature? 

Yes, the alco-beverage industry has become eco-conscious. Even the drinks that we do has a carbon footprint. Welcome to Sustainable Cocktails! No, these cocktails aren’t bland or boring – they are very much like the refreshing ones we love to sip on. Nilesh Patel, Beverage Head, Impresario Handmade Restaurants aware us, “The entire philosophy of sustainable cocktails circles around environmental consciousness and responsibility, it means minimizing the usage of natural resources along with energy conservation.” 

Shehan Minocher, Brand Ambassador of Moet Hennessy India adds, “Sustainability is going to play an integral role in driving mixology into the future. Mixologists are increasingly looking to showcase indigenous flavours and ingredients whilst conscientiously celebrating the natural environment and using drinks as a vehicle for expression. As we are witnessing a cocktail renaissance, there are several factors to consider when crafting a drink.”

What Are Sustainable Cocktails? Understanding Importance Of Sustainable Cocktails
Image Credits: Belvedere Vodka

Getting Into Basics Of Sustainable Cocktails

There always seems to be a new beverage fad sweeping through urban cafés, restaurants, and bars. Is it too? Mr Shehan doesn’t think so, “This however isn’t just a fad amongst young consumers. Consumers are beginning to consume more consciously as they become more aware of the environmental impacts of over-consumption.”

Simplifying it, Mohit Madaan, Manager, Rick’s at Taj Mahal, New Delhi explains, “Sustainable cocktails are green, eco-friendly and focus on ensuring a reduction of raw materials. These are cocktails that are all about natural resources and minimising energy usage, basically having a zero wastage policy approach.” 

These cocktails aren’t something rocket-science invention. It means using all resources, ingredients to its core. “The key to making sustainable cocktails is to use most of the ingredients you have for e.g., peeling any citrus fruits before juicing and using the peel to make garnishes, bitters, or Oleo Saccharum. Another way of making cocktails sustainable is by reducing the usage of straw and stirrer. Also, it takes lots of water and energy to make ice so to minimize the usage of natural resources there are alternative ways to chill drinks rather than using ice,” explains Nilesh.

Obviously, we, as humans, tend to take more than we give but with sustainable cocktails, you can actually pass down many of these ingredients into making more beverages for your family. “Waste products can be used in a fun way here too, for example, up-cycling a coconut or pineapple and turning it into a fun, tropical glass. This also works really well for sustainable smoothies or mocktails for children, as they love the fruit cups! After use, the cups can go straight into the compost bin and then, in turn, fertilize our gardens, creating a complete cycle,” enlightens Samantha Haberli, F&B Executive, Soneva Kiri.

What Are Sustainable Cocktails? Understanding Importance Of Sustainable Cocktails
Image Credits: Soneva

How To Cook Up These Cool Sustainable Cocktails?

This ‘sustainable cocktail’ movement actually has stronger roots rather than temporary cocktail trends. For these, that looks like buying local ingredients and utilizing brands that prioritise sustainability. “Just like with food, the ingredients we use are a big part of sustainability. Using seasonal ingredients that are locally grown and support the local farmers is a great way to make your cocktails more sustainable and to cut out part of the carbon footprint of imported products. Researching the brands of alcohol you use also plays an important role,” summarises Samantha.

Focusing on local ingredients also reduces the carbon footprint generated by shipping across continents. “Our country has a trove of beautiful and diverse ingredients – bars should try incorporating these indigenous ingredients as opposed to using imported lemons and oranges for example,” tells Shehan. 

However, there seems to be another issue regarding using citrus in crafting these cocktails. “The huge focus on citrus is one area that we could improve upon. Unfortunately, most believe the only way to introduce citrus to a drink is by using fresh limes and lemons. This notion leads to huge amounts of waste and the perception that lime juice must be consumed fresh. Looking at alternatives such as kinds of vinegar, malic acid and lactic acid will enable bars to reduce the amount of limes/lemons and the supporting waste associated with that.”

Not just lemons, most ingredients have the power to be used to the fullest and drinks can always be pre-batched.  

“Yes, of course, leftover fruits can be used for syrups or infusions, flat sparkling wine can be used to make Cordial, the leftover coffee ground can be used to make coffee syrup, wines can be used to make vinegar, and citrus or other oil-rich fruits can be used to make Oleo Saccharum,” tells Nilesh. 

What Are Sustainable Cocktails? Understanding Importance Of Sustainable Cocktails

Award-Winning Mixologist, Joel Scholtens Lindsay of The Blue Bar, Taj Palace, New Delhi suggests,In addition to using homegrown ingredients and infusions, a simple solution would be to pre-bottle the cocktails to increase shelf life and minimise wastage.”

Mr Mohit also adds to this, “ Use ingredients that can be sustained for a long time. Like, use more organic stuff for example sugar syrup that can be replaced with honey.”

But, when it comes to cocktails, people take it as a grand indulgence, a special treat. So, would we want our special treats to be picked from the neighbourhood supermarket in order of “local produce”? “Cocktails are luxury indulgences that often price 3 times the price of a beer so people don’t want to be told that their cocktail is made from non-premium ingredients, bars should be sustainable but without compromising the quality of cocktails,” warns Nilesh.

Not Just Cocktails, Bars Need To Be Sustainable Too

Not just helping the planet, these cocktails could save money, time, and resources for bartenders and restaurant managers. By doing this, bars can start connecting better with consumers too. Creating a fully sustainable bar program, however, isn’t a one-step process- it’s a long and complex journey towards becoming a ‘zero-waste bar’ that is flooding the international cocktail scene. 

“For one, being more sustainable helps reduce the costs the bar incurs. Apart from the monetary gains, in an age where consumers are conscious and care about what they are drinking, they are eager to listen and be immersed in the story of the bar. Bars with unique value propositions, like ‘zero-waste enable the customer to value the experience beyond just the cocktail.” shares Shehan.

Bars aren’t just the place where you go to just sip a nice drink. Every place with its design, offerings have the ability to enact a passionate story and become an example. Who to better explain this than Paris’ very prestigious – Le Bristol? Their bar director, Thierry Hernandez shares, “When we serve the cocktail to our guests, we make sure to explain to them the story of the cocktail, the story of the ingredients that we used, why we used them, where they come from. It is very important for us as every detail has its importance. We need to serve all the classics to our guests if they ask for it.”

What Are Sustainable Cocktails? Understanding Importance Of Sustainable Cocktails
Image Credits: Soneva

The industry in India has a long journey ahead but bars here are revamping their old procedures and adopting measures that can Mother Nature in whichever way possible. Mr Joel of The Blue Bar, Taj Palace shares, “For example – Whiskey Sours are immensely popular at our bar and require the use of that use freshly squeezed lemon juice. In order to ensure that skins do not go to waste, we have many cocktails that use Lemon Zest. We also use the lemon rind to make our own homemade limoncello, cordials, homemade infusions – syrups, liqueur, cordials, all of which allow us to add plenty of flavour to cocktails.”

Even big, spacious hotels and resorts can use their own local produce, “We also have a small herb garden at our hotel where we grow our own herbs for cocktails. The produce is fresh, with the least carbon footprint and therefore sustainable and environmentally friendly. Even when we source ingredients from local farms, the delivery is coursed regarding minimal pollution to the environment during delivery.” 

“We are proud to say that we use a lot of our own organic homegrown vegetables and herbs in our cocktails and even make our own infusions, bitters and syrups,” adds Samantha. 

Thierry shares too, “We do our best to consume local (France) and to have our in-house productions (for example we have our very own mill to produce a high-end flour based on ancient wheat, we also have our own chocolate factory) We love to create our own syrups, infusions.” 

Raise Sustainable Cocktails Only

We as consumers of these brands and drinks must make it a point to raise voices. Consumers have a big role to play – they need to begin by asking for sustainable cocktails and enquiring about ingredients in their drinks- starting from the alcohol and the practices used by the bar, guides Shehan.

Although there are a small number of bars that are beginning to initiate the conversation around sustainability the vast majority just aren’t aware. Education and awareness are going to be the key drivers to help make this shift, however, the onus isn’t only on the bars but also on the brands.

To begin with, a ‘drink and education’ strategy could be something where both the parties (bartenders and brands) can be at the gaining end. The team at Belvedere launched their global communication platform, ‘Made with Nature’. The platform is built around the sustainable efforts being made at Belvedere while producing vodka but further transcends into how they want our products to be enjoyed ‘with nature’.

What Are Sustainable Cocktails? Understanding Importance Of Sustainable Cocktails
Image Credits: Belvedere Vodka

He advises, “Bar professionals, particularly owners and managers must start educating themselves and begin incorporating sustainable practices, irrespective of how small because every bit counts. The brands themselves need to become more sustainable in their production, only then will that story trickle down to show the bar professionals how important it is for the future of the industry. In our industry the consumer is always right, bars need to continuously look closely at changing drinking preferences and buying patterns – seeing this shift in the consumer mindset will help drive change in their own operations.”

There can be so much waste in the cocktail crafting process, especially when working with fresh ingredients. What makes this cocktail extra, extra sustainable is how you deal with the waste. Be informed and aware of the liquor brands that “actually” commit to environmentally responsible practices. 

Choosing local, seasonal, organic ingredient choices whenever humanly possible is inevitable. Now that we are stuck at homes, cocktails refills can keep you up on your toes. So, why not grow your own organic cocktail herbs on a bright windowsill? Another personal suggestion would be using vintage glassware and not too big ones! 

PS – Please drink responsibly.

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