Being a trailblazer in the bar industry does not HAVE to mean leaving a larger carbon footprint behind. As the health-conscious consumer continues to grow in numbers, so does the pressure to provide cocktail recipes with fresh fruit, produce & herbs. Unfortunately, this trend can increase daily waste behind the bar and in the kitchen if we are not mindful. Thus, why the concept of sustainability has taken off in the Food and Beverage industry. You might say the idea of using ingredients in whole or in multiple applications is not a new concept, as chefs have been using animals from ‘ear to tail’ for years, but the concept is not only being transferred to the bar, it forcing new collaborations between the kitchen and bar. Once the back of house and front of house start working together, the innovation runs wild and in return can lower food waste and increase sales. So, how can you achieve elevating your cocktail menu with fresh, innovative drinks without throwing money down the drain?
Recently, The Apex Culinary Team put together an event to help showcase ways we collaborate between our kitchen and bar, to help diminish waste, all while bringing flavorful food and drinks to the table. Below are three examples from our event in Omaha, Nebraska that highlight how to create cocktails that pack a punch to your taste buds, not your budget.
One way to get guests intrigued with a cocktail is to bring an unusual ingredient to the recipe. Mushrooms are thought to be a savory, kitchen ingredient, not something enjoyed while sipping on a libation. We wanted to utilize the mushroom’s distinct earthy taste to bring a new flavor profile to a favorite classic cocktail- the old fashioned. What screams fall more than bourbon, walnuts and the aroma of the dank forest floor? In this particular case, we were pairing this drink with a hearty steak sandwich drenched in bourbon mushroom sauce. After a few days of bathing dehydrated shiitake mushrooms in a bottle of local Patriarch distilled Bourbon, we strained the contents and set the mushrooms aside. We used the infused bourbon with a bit of turbinado syrup, a few dashes of walnut bitters and stirred to bring new light to an old classic. Poured neat into a rocks glass and garnished with a dehydrated lemon and a couple home-made Maraschino Cherries. Those bourbon mushrooms were then the base of a beautiful warm sauce that kept you wanting another sip of this cocktail with each bite you took.
Piggy backing on health trends in the food industry, we decided to make an amped up, vegan friendly Pisco Sour. The fizz and sour would normally be a delicious, airy cocktail a vegan would regretfully have to decline- but not anymore. Substituting Egg Whites for chickpea juice creates no flavor impact, all while not jeopardizing the texture nor distinctive appearance of these classics. Ideally, this cocktail would pair great with a back of house dish that also included chickpeas in another form to help cut costs and streamline ordering. Instead of traditional simple syrup (1part sugar to 1 part water) we steeped with fresh rosemary and mango. Once the syrup was strained and cooled those mangos were chopped up and used in a bright salmon ceviche, while the rosemary was dehydrated and ground up into a powder for garnish. Add all liquid ingredients to a shaker tin then fill with ice. Give it a good long shake and double strain back into e shaker. Discard the ice and give another good shake- this dry shake really helps activate the emulsifiers in the cocktail to ensure a fluffy head once poured. One thing I noticed while working in the restaurant industry was the deli containers used to store prepped ingredients always seemed to have an excess of lids vs containers. Instead of throwing mine away I carefully cut “APEX” into the lid which created a stencil for my garnish. I added bitters to a spray can used in the salad prep station and there you have it- a eco-friendly way to brand your drinks. Topped with a little rosemary powder and you have one picture perfect refresher!
Garnishes are a great, easy way to help keep your establishment sustainable. Instead of cutting fruit daily and discarding, dehydrating can help fruit last indefinitely. In this next cocktail, we elevate the already perfect margarita. Usually, an establishment was thought to have two ways to go with this cocktail, being that its a signature cocktail. They either use premade sour mix to cut on costs or juice hundreds of fresh fruits daily, discard the rinds and then slice thousands of fresh fruits for their garnish, while wasting what was not used for the juice. With the first way, you have a cocktail containing artificial flavors and ingredients hindering the taste. With the other way, your drink tastes delicious but has a much higher food cost & waste. In this recipe we decided to use fresh lemon juice, but saved the rinds after juicing to be vacuumed sealed with a little sugar water and made our own Limoncello. This added something special to the menu from something that normally would have been discarded. Two drinks for the price of one. You could also peel whatever fruit juice you’d like to use and make an oleo sacrum for the base of another drink on the menu.
The solutions are there, you just need to find them!
We then made our own Apricot Liquor (fresh apricots, dried apricots, vodka, & simple syrup) which you guessed it, we strained and set our boozy apricots aside. These could be used for either a dessert, made into a fruit jerky for garnish, or just skewered and grilled to serve alongside a cocktail. We also made our own Earl Gray Syrup by steeping tea in a simple syrup (this is a great marinade or BBQ sauce ingredient). If you thought we couldn’t make anything more in house for this cocktail you’d be wrong! We decided to smoke water in the combi oven and froze into some sphere molds. We then shook all liquid ingredients together, dropped our smoked ice sphere into the glass and then poured the ingredients over that perfectly smoked ice sphere. We elected to garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel and there you have it- a sustainable solution to your margarita cost dilemma.
Now that you’re an expert, start getting creative about ways to mix up cocktail ingredients, collaborate with the kitchen and get your bar on the pathway to saving the environment, while adding money to the bottom line, all at the same time!
Toree Gotsis, Bar and Beverage Specialist