Solving the sustainability problem that cocktails pose—or any consumption, for that matter—is no easy feat. But easing into it by introducing low-waste practices and thoughtful sourcing can go a long way. And, thanks to a growing crop of eco-minded spirit producers and drink-makers, there’s never been a better time to drink sustainably.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, there are plenty of ways to lessen the footprint of your own home bar. It can start with a zero-waste approach to using citrus, in which flavor can be extracted from the peels, hulls and pith that might otherwise be discarded, or by seeking out spirits to stock your bar that promote biodiversity, source local crops and support farming communities.
Here, we share a few of the producers, growers and techniques that can help us rethink our relationship with ingredients that we often take for granted.
Bottles to Try
GOOD Vodka: Made with discarded coffee fruit pulp purchased from farms in the Caldas region of Colombia, the carbon-negative vodka expresses a unique flavor that’s “at once earthy, peppery and almost kirsch-like in its fruit-forward profile.” In other words, not your average vodka-soda.
Matchbook Distilling: Biodiversity and regenerative agriculture are top of mind at this North Fork, Long Island–based distillery. Many of these spirits and liqueurs are distilled on a limited-run basis (heavily dependent on seasonality and harvests), such as Forbidden Fruit Vermouth, made with underripe grapes from a nearby biodynamic vineyard, and Metamodernity Bourbon, made with New York–grown corn, wheat, barley and oats.
Neta: The agave spirits bottler and exporter works with small, family-owned farms to bring their products to market at a profitable price point. As such, producers are able to maintain traditional mezcal practices and crops while avoiding overharvesting or the loss of agave biodiversity for the sake of meeting demand.
The plastic straw ban prompted a bar industry obsession to find the perfect replacement. From classic stainless steel to more whimsical colored glass, reusable straws are a sturdy, long-lasting addition to any home bar setup—without any of the sogginess from single-use paper straws.
Native, Singapore: Co-owner Vijay Mudaliar’s vision for a “local bar” is manifested through sustainable offerings like exclusively Southeast Asian–made spirits, foraged spices and repurposed lotus leaf coasters.
Himkok, Oslo: The Norwegian bar’s on-site distillery produces 80 percent of the spirits, wine and beer they serve, nearly eliminating shipping-related emissions and wastes.
Hunky Dory, New York: At Claire Sprouse’s Brooklyn bar, the brands featured on the limited backbar tend to reflect the bar's sustainable ethos, while cocktails are known to spotlight greener alternatives to traditional ingredients, like sunflower seed orgeat in lieu of water-wasting almond orgeat.
Local and Seasonal Produce
Supporting local farmers and producers through CSAs and greenmarkets will not only lessen your groceries’ carbon footprint, but you’ll also have access to a hyperlocal selection of produce that the average grocery store lacks, like speciality herbs that can be incorporated into a cocktail via syrup or an infusion. Alternatively, there are delivery services that intentionally source their offerings from small growers and organic farms, such as Natoora, Chef Collective and Misfits Market.
Resources and Techniques
Alternative Orgeats: Almonds, a notoriously water-intensive crop, aren’t necessary to make orgeat at home. Alt orgeats, from Sprouse’s sunflower seed variation to Kelsey Ramage’s unexpected use of day-old almond croissants, offer less-wasteful ways to realize your perfect Mai Tai.
Green Pineapple Cordial: Rescue your pineapple rinds and blend them with water, sugar and basil. The result is a fruity, herbaceous sweetener that will add a sliver of tropical sunshine to Daiquiris, Pisco Sours and Caipirinhas.
Citrus Stock: Combine spent hulls with boiling water to create a citrus “stock,” which can be used as its own ingredient to add sweetness and acidity or to replace fresh juice entirely in everything from highballs to frozen cocktails.
Science Your Way to a Zero-Waste Cocktail: Team Lyan recommends a bevy of food waste–friendly techniques—like extracting more flavor from herbs by using their stems and blending strained fruit pulp into syrup.