Get into the zero waste cocktail ~spirit 🥂

 

Author:  Lauren Plug

Whether you’re on the crafting or the savoring end of a cocktail, there’s nothing like a delicious beverage to help you close your eyes and relax in the moment just a little bit more.


We couldn’t be more excited that sustainability is finally making its way through our kitchens and into our liquor cabinets by way of sustainable and ‘zero-waste’ cocktails! (Does anyone have a liquor cabinet anymore?).


But even if you’re just here for a good zero-waste recipe, it’s hard to ignore how much food waste is sent to landfills every year. 


From farm to fridge, the U.S. discards 133 billion pounds of food. Yearly. Yikes!


Most of this happens in our houses and in retail locations but restaurants and bars are big contributors. About 4-10% of the food purchased for a restaurant never makes it to a plate and ends up discarded while 31-40% of food sent out to customers goes uneaten and is also discarded.


That’s a lot of money, energy, time, and resources wasted that affects us all. 


At Repurpose, in addition to making durable and compostable cocktail glasses and non-paper straws, we’re all about finding — and sharing — new ways to reduce our impact on the environment. 


Today that comes in the form of learning how to turn kitchen trash into liquid gold — or as it's most commonly known, sustainable, “zero waste” cocktail recipes (and mocktails!).

What Is A Sustainable Cocktail

In a previous blog, we talked about how to recycle your kitchen scraps into more food — crafting sustainable cocktails comes from the same idea! 


Throughout this post, and life in general, we use a relaxed definition of zero waste. We’re not talking about fitting a year's worth of trash in one mason jar. We are talking about prioritizing materials and ingredients that:

  • Decompose
  • Can be composted
  • Have minimal or recyclable packaging.

The purpose of sustainable and zero-waste cocktails and mocktails is to create delicious refreshments in a variety of ways that are more beneficial to the planet. We know that’s kinda vague but as with most aspects of sustainability… it’s complicated. 


The truth is, there are many factors that go into the process of creating alcohol, and every step of the way has its own carbon footprint. 


For example: 

  • The crops needed to make alcohol grow on farms involve tons of water, fertilization, insecticides, and harvesting. 
  • Roughly 8-15 liters of waste materials are created by distilleries per liter of alcohol. That waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, especially from water and byproduct waste.
  • It requires a lot of energy to convert these ingredients into alcohol — an average 750 ML bottle creates 6.5 pounds of carbon dioxide
  • Refrigeration, transportation, and packaging create additional energy use and waste.

It’s clearly not a perfect system, but armed with awareness and knowledge we can start to make better decisions! 

It’s About More Than Just A Beverage

Seeing as worldwide alcohol consumption was equal to 6.2 liters per person in 2018 (16 ounces per day), a four-ounce refreshment might seem harmless; but it has environmental, social, and economic effects that are felt worldwide.


Before you trash your entire stash of ‘unsustainable’ alcohol — please don't! It’s so easy to go ALL IN on sustainability and start researching sustainable alcohol, farming methods, waste cycles, and end-of-life packaging. 


Buuuut we recommend slowing down, starting small, and picking one aspect of sustainability that’s important to you.

How To Use Food Scraps To Make A Zero-Waste Beverage

We’re starting this sustainable cocktail journey in the kitchen by exploring some tips and recipes to use that wrinkled and sightly passed its due date item you’ve been side-eyeing.

When thinking about crafting a more sustainable cocktail, think about:  

  • How you can use what you already have.
  • How to get the maximum use out of food you’ve already used.
  • How to minimize your overall waste.

Repurpose Chickpea/Garbanzo Bean Water (Aquafaba)

There’s actually a name for the “water” you drain out of a can of chickpeas — Aquafaba. If you’re vegan, allergic to eggs, or want to part ways with that wet dog smell, Aquafaba can be subbed for egg whites in cocktails and in baking. 


Next time you’re cooking with chickpeas, whip up this aperitif

Oaxacan Sour

Time Needed: 5 minutes

Full Recipe From Better Bartending 

Try this if you have: 

  • 2 oz. Mezcal Espadin
  • 1 oz. Lime juice
  • Lime Zest
  • ½ oz. Agave syrup (can sub for ½ oz of Honey)
  • 1 oz. Aquafaba
  • Pink Himalayan salt 

Use Old Or Aging Fruit & Berries

A good piece of general food waste advice is to freeze your berries when their use-by date is soaring past you or they’re getting a little wrinkly. Frozen berries and fruit can be used in smoothies, simple syrups, desserts, and of course cocktails at a later time. 

Mango Margs 

Time Needed: 10 Minutes

Full Recipe Below

Margaritas can be made with a variety of fruits (cucumbers, mangos, strawberries, raspberries, lemons, limes, the options are endless)! 

Try this if you have extra mango (or any other type of fruit):

  • 3 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 small mango
  • 1.5 ounces lime juice
  • 2 ounces orange liqueur 
  • 1-ounce simple syrup (or 1.5 ounces agave)
  • 3 ounces grapefruit soda (or grapefruit flavored soda water, or just plain soda water)

Blend the mango in, add all the remaining ingredients, give it another spin to mix it all together; pour into a glass to serve. 

Bonus: The used lime can be used to rim the glass and add a complementary flavor like Tajin (if you have it), cayenne pepper if you’re feeling spicy, or even finely chopped jalapenos.

Make a simple syrup 

Time Needed: 4 Hours

Full Recipe at Keeping It Simple

Simple syrups can be added to a variety of cocktails and mocktails. They can also be used in breakfast foods, salad dressings, and yogurt. It’s pretty simple to DIY a simple syrup! 

Try this if you have: 

  • Any type of fruit/herb getting close to expiration (or frozen)
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Strainer/cheesecloth

Frozen Berries 

Time Needed: ~2 Hours

Full Recipe on TikTok From Brennan Kai

Try this if you have: 

  • Grapes you aren’t going to eat/ are going bad (optional, ‘garnish’)
  • Sugar (optional, ‘garnish’)
  • Frozen (or old) Berries
  • Lemon Juice
  • Simple Syrup (use the recipe above)
  • Tequila
  • Soda Water

Grapes always come in too-large containers. Any uneaten or ugly ones can be frozen and used later to keep your wine chilled. 

Frozen Strawberry (Or Berry) Refresher

Time Needed: ~2 Hours

Full Recipe on TikTok From Elleni Katalanos

Try this if you have: 

  • Frozen berries of any kind
  • Rum
  • Cointreau
  • Lime Juice
  • Honey or Simple Syrup (optional)

On The Rocks

Time Needed: ~2 hours

Recipe Below, Creativity Encouraged

The easiest method of them all is to freeze your fruit, herbs, and edible flowers into ice cube trays to use for cocktails and mocktails later. Here’s how! 

Try this if you have: 

  • Berries, herbs, or edible flowers nearing the end of their life.
  • Ice cube trays to spare
  • Soda Water
  • Simple Syrup (or honey)
  • Liquor (but probably Vodka)

Chop into small pieces and distribute into the ice cube tray. You decide whether to mix or match. Add filtered water until the cube is full, then freeze. Once frozen, serve with sparking water and a simple syrup for a mocktail. Add an ounce (or two) of your favorite liquor for a cocktail. 

Mixology Meets Microbes Via Fermentation 

Fruit rinds are often overlooked as unusable waste but that’s far from the truth. With a little bit of effort and a chemical breakdown, we can get delicious beverages such as tepache, DIY soda, or limoncello!

Pineapple Skins = Tepache

Time needed: 2.5 days

Full Recipe from Mexico In My Kitchen

Tepache is a refreshing, slightly alcoholic drink you can make using pineapple skin and a few household staples.

Try this if you have: 

  • The skin from one ripe pineapple
  • 1 cup organic sugar (or piloncillo if you have it)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon (optional)
  • 3 cloves (optional)
  • 2 quarts filtered water.

Ferment Strawberries Into A Diy Soda

Time needed: 7 days 

Full Recipe From Zero Waste Chef

Sweet strawberries, fresh or frozen, work best for this recipe from the Zero Waste Chef.

Try this if you have:

  • 1 cup sweet strawberries, cut into small 1/2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • Helpful but not necessary: Swing top glass jar with 6+ cup capacity

When Lemons Are In Season Limoncello Calls Your Name

Time needed: 2 weeks

Full Recipe From Recipes From Italy

Best known for being a digestivo to enjoy after dinner to aid digestion and cleanse the palate (AKA make room for gelato), limoncello can also be used in desserts, gelato, and even in salads! 

Try this if you have extra lemons:

  • 8 big untreated organic lemons
  • 1 liter (4 cups) of pure alcohol 95° which is equivalent to 1 liter of Everclear (190-proof) or you can use a 100-proof Vodka
  • 600 g (3 cups) of granulated sugar
  • 1 liter (4 cups) of water

Use And Then Reuse: Coffee Grounds & Jam Jars

Finding new ways to reduce food waste and reuse food to its maximum feels a little bit like magic. You’ll start thinking you have superpowers and seeing creative ways to use new things everywhere! 

Espresso Martini

Time Needed: 30 minutes — 2 days

Full Recipe on TikTok From Lilly Higgins Food

Coffee grounds have many uses from skincare, plant fertilizer, and now cocktails! 

Try this if you have: 

  • Used coffee grounds
  • Vodka
  • Irish cream (optional)
  • Maple syrup (optional)
  • Extra espresso (optional)
  • Coffee liqueur (optional)

Cocktail Jam

Time Needed: 5 minutes

Recipe Inspiration From Alyssa Barber on TikTok

Use up all the jam that never seems to come off the sides of the jar and make it into a delicious cocktail (breadcrumbs welcome). 

Try this if you have: 

  • Vodka (or any liquor of your choice)
  • A mostly empty jam jar
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  • Soda water / Strawberry Lemon Poppi Prebiotic Soda

 

These zero-waste recipes are just a handful of the ways you can repurpose food and herbs into cocktails using simple, common items you often have on hand.


Even if you don’t consider yourself a master bartender, there are an infinite number of easy ways to turn common food scraps into delicious sustainable cocktails. 


They’ll taste even better knowing you did something great for the environment (at least we think so). 

Final Tips For Making “Zero Waste” Beverages 

When you’re mixing up cocktails in the future, keep in mind these additional tips to drink r-ECO-sponsibly (not sorry for that pun, this isn’t Buzzfeed). 


Leftover herbs are your friend

Use up any leftover herbs by infusing them into liquor, use them to make simple syrups, or freeze them with complementary ingredients for future easy cocktails (like the ‘on the rocks’ recipe).


Prioritize fresh, local, seasonal ingredients

One of the most sustainable diets you can have is one that prioritizes locally grown and seasonal ingredients. By repurposing extra food into cocktails, you’ve cut down your food miles and prevented food waste. Go you!


Investigate Other Preserving Methods

Dehydrated fruit and garnishes are practically immortal. They look pretty, they taste good, and they don’t expire. Win-win-win! 


Use The Whole Thing

It’s easy to take what you need and discard the rest — in cocktails and in general. But most of the time there are other ways you can repurpose fruit — and not just in cocktails!

  • Lemon peels can be used for limoncello (also lime peels BTW).
  • Lemon juice can be frozen to use later.
  • Lime zest is an intricate flavor often used in recipes and sometimes lemon zest (tip: zest all your limes into a container and keep it in the freezer).
  • Banana peels can be used for an oleo-saccharum.
  • Strawberry tops and other fruits you’ve judged by their peels can likely be used to make a simple syrup or infused gin/liquor.

Skip All The Plastic & Add A Degradeable Cocktail Straw

We know straws + ice = a vibe, but for the sake of the environment give our compostable, degradable, and most importantly paper-free and sturdy cocktail straws a try. Oh, and of course, keep our compostable cocktail cups on hand! 


Be Creative

Lastly, be creative! Color outside the lines, wear mismatched socks, see if you can make a cocktail from carrots, and have fun. 


We’re all learning new ways to live more gently and in harmony with the environment. The only wrong way of doing it is to do nothing at all. And seriously, let us know how that carrot cocktail works out. 


Drink Eco-sponsibly! 



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