In 2013, London saw the establishment of one of the world’s first low-waste bars. White Lyan, in the city’s East End, plans its operations around sustainability: reducing wastage, eschewing disposables and focusing on responsibly sourced ingredients. Today, cocktail bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana aka Mr Lyan is considered a pioneer, a name that many in the industry look up to.
Now, Pune’s Rohan Rege, a 26-year-old bartender with Paasha, at the JW Marriot Hotel, is working to promote sustainability in his own way. He swears by online resources like Trash Tiki — which shares ideas on reducing waste — and is realistic about the broad habits of the ever-busy industry.
“In the hospitality industry especially, a lot of waste is generated every day,” he says, explaining how he worked with his team to convince Paasha to eliminate canned juices and syrups, cut down on transportation of ingredients from far away, and reduce plastic packaging.
“We have also stopped using tasting straws entirely,” says Rege, crediting the management of the bar — and of JW Marriott — for these baby steps. “Just one person standing behind the bar to promote sustainability won’t work. So, I brought my whole team into it. The change in mindset, and ideas, came from everybody working at the bar.”
Having said that, it is the bartenders who are at the forefront of the change. As Zachary Abbott, ambassador of Diageo (a British multinational alcoholic beverages company headquartered in London) says, “In any good bar, the management will respect the bartender. It saves the owner money in the long run.”
Abbott sees sustainable bartending as “the number one trend around the world right now. Parts of it are quite simple: keeping an eye on your taps and reducing water usage can help save 20% cost; switching to LED lighting can save 75%.” But reducing costs — and more importantly, your carbon footprint — goes beyond that: the very art of bartending plays a crucial part.
Jitender Singh Rana, the 25-year-old beverage director of Aallia Hospitality, gives a few examples. “For 500 guests, a bar would use 200 kilograms of ice per night. For that much ice, you would need more than 50 litres of water, and electricity and machinery. Or you could just use chilled ingredients.” While this practice might not eliminate the use of ice completely, it can lower it by a lot, says Rana.
As beverage director, Rana has a say in the operations of Aallia-owned restaurants Arth, A Bar Called Life, Bastian and One Street Over. Each of these is a testament to his green ideas, from bamboo, paper and metal straws to condensed milk tins recycled as cocktail glasses.
And then there are the ingredients themselves. “Orange slices are used in drinks. We put the leftovers to dehydrate every Friday and Saturday, for nearly 60 days. We then use them for garnishing. The stems of mint leaves are also often discarded; but they contain a lot of flavour. We use them to make mint-infused bourbon, for our signature cocktails.”
To reduce their carbon footprint, Rana focusses on using local ingredients, and has changed the recipe of a number of cocktails to meet this ideal. “Bushi mushrooms cocktail usually uses mushrooms indigenous to Latin America and Europe. We use Kashmiri morels instead,” he says, by way of example.
This is the kind of innovation that Abbott also encourages. “At the Basque Culinary Center [an influential gastronomical institute located in Spain], one of the things we teach bartenders is to keep an eye on carbon footprint: use seasonal ingredients, look at transportation, go local,” he stresses. This was also the thrust of Diageo’s World Class global bartending contest this year, which Rana won.
“People are being incredibly inventive right now,” he says, “Plastic straws just have to go, but paper ones get soggy in heavy drinks. So instead, we use lemongrass, which is aromatic as well. Using something edible as a straw is the way to go.”
Innovations aren’t coming only from kitchen and bar. Rana speaks about a colleague who found interesting coasters, in Dharavi. “They were made by shreds of torn plastic, bound together,” he says, “They look great.”