Food by VICE

This Bar Wants You to Drink Garbage

"We've asked bartenders from other cocktail bars to bring their waste to us—not in a garbage bag, but in the form of a cocktail."

by Alex Krancher; translated by Jens van de Meulenhof
Sep 7 2017, 2:00pm

Foto by David Costa

This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES Netherlands.

As cocktail bars have gotten more popular, the amount of waste they produce on an average Friday night (and it's a shitload: Umbrellas, stirrers, straws, pieces of fruit, and napkins all add up) has grown too. Julian Bayuni from Vesper, a cocktail bar in Amsterdam, confirms this. He argues that the way we handle waste is entirely wrong, and that we can actually reuse much of what we throw away. That's why Vesper started Trash the Place, an initiative that tries to get his fellow bartenders to work in a more environmentally-conscious manner.

Bayuni explains, "We want to reduce the amount of waste our bar produces drastically, and we want other bartenders to do that too—but in a fun way, without pushing them."

Bayuni is originally from London, which is where he first had the inspiration for Trash the Place. The city's innovative bar scene is very involved in recycling their own products and reducing the overall amount of waste.

Bayuni cites a few examples of how they're currently try to reduce their waste output at Vesper. "We don't use plastic straws anymore, since most of the people pull the straw out of their drink as soon as they get it. And if someone wants a straw, we have sustainable options: Metal or bamboo straws, which we can clean and reuse," he explains. "Bucatini is actually another great option, too—it's a thick spaghetti with a hole in the middle and it works perfectly as a straw."

Trash the Place is also finding new ways to deal with fruit waste. "The biggest evil-doers are citrus fruits," says Bayuni. "You often squeeze a lime just for its juice and throw the wedge straight into the garbage can. Eventually, this creates a lot of waste. And it's a shame to throw away the skin when you can do other things with it."

Which is exactly the idea behind Trash the Place: To use waste creatively, and make something else with it. You can make a Frankenstein of a mixed drink with what's left—at Vesper, for example, they use pineapple juice in cocktails, dry the fruit's flesh and use it as a garnish, make simple syrup from its leaves, and then the husk is used in a fruit broth. No part of the pineapple goes unused.

"You can do this with any kind of fruit," Bayuni explains. "For example, we use strawberries to make our own strawberry Campari. Once the flavor [has been fully infused], we filter the fruit out of the Campari and mix it with some mango, fresh tomato, cilantro, and onion to make a fermented salsa, which we serve with our tortilla chips."

If something isn't used in a cocktail, it's assigned another function at Vesper. The Trash the Place project calls on other Amsterdam cocktail bars to do the same.

"The best thing about Trash the Place project is that we've asked bartenders from other cocktail bars to bring their waste to us—not in a garbage bag, but in the form of a cocktail," says Bayuni. "We get lots of interesting creations. Timo Stemerdink, bartender at Restaurant C, made a cocktail with rhubarb broth, which he made from the rhubarb leftovers the restaurant uses for desserts. Daniel Dias from cocktail bar The Duchess made a cocktail [that uses] simple syrup [made with] remaining pineapple leaves and caramelized banana peel. Instead of throwing stuff away, we're thinking about a creative way to reuse it. We then serve the bartender's signature cocktail in our cocktail bar for the whole month."

In addition to Vesper, a total of twelve other Amsterdam cocktail bars are involved in the Trash the Place project, such as Pulitzer Bar, Door 74, Salmuera, and Mad Fox. They all supply ingredients—for which most of the recipes are strictly secret—to Vesper. The products that the participating bartenders deliver can only be used in their own signature cocktails.

When it comes to sustainability, bars lag behind kitchens significantly. Large kitchens have been trying to reduce their garbage output for awhile now, as seen by the rise in restaurants that use meat "from head to tail," and kitchens who create their own broth from leftover vegetables. Why can't bars do the same?

READ MORE: Why This Hong Kong Bar is Using Canned Cocktails

"We started this project in Amsterdam, where we tried to get all the local bartenders enthusiastic about recycling their products," says Bayuni. "Since the world of bartenders is small, we hope it'll work as a kind of oil spill—which might be a strange comparison in this story—and spread across the Netherlands, so that it will inspire others to do something about the amount of waste they produce too. It's nice to see that other bartenders are really involved. When I enter a cocktail bar for a drink, I see them paying extra attention. You'll see them thinking, 'Oh shit, I can't give Julian any plastic straws!' People are more aware of the way they deal with their leftovers and waste. Not everything can be changed in one day, of course, but you can clearly see there's something happening here."