Zero waste cocktail making: how to get the most out of everyday ingredients
World Best Bar
May 29, 2020
10 January 2019
How about extending this mindset to our home bartending? Read on for our easy tips to use our kitchen ingredients to their full potential, allowing us to creating zero waste cocktails that taste amazing in the process.
1. Herbs starting to wilt? Fruit going overripe? Infuse them into syrups or spirits
Let’s start at the beginning: the key to zero waste cocktail making is getting the most out of our unused ingredients instead of getting rid of them. Are the fresh herbs left over from last week starting to look sad? Has the fruit at the bottom of the fridge drawer seen much better days? What you would normally do is throw them away before they definitely turn bad, right? Well, we’re not doing that anymore.
The best way to rescue and get the most out of such perishables is to infuse them into syrups or spirits.
You can find out all you need to know about making your own syrups from scratch over here.
As for infusing spirits, it’s even easier, since there is no sugar or heat involved. Just grab the spirit you want to infuse, pour it in a sealable jar, and add whatever ingredients you want to infuse it with. Keep in a cool, dark place, shake periodically, and in only 3 to 5 days your infused spirit will be ready to strain, bottle and enjoy (but you can of course continue infusing for longer, as some combinations can improve over the course of several weeks).
A few tips:
- Vodka goes very well with all types of berries. Rum is perfect mixed with pineapple and/or ginger and spices. Gin pairs fantastically with citrus and herbs or tea. And tequila with chili and passion fruit or mango are absolute killer combos.
- Don’t go for the expensive stuff! Infusing is the perfect way to elevate a bottle that’s on the cheaper side 😉
- Fruit takes longer to infuse than herbs and spices, so get it started a few days earlier when making combinations.
- Grab a teaspoon and taste it every day. Strain once you’re happy with where it’s at.
- Don’t worry about it going bad. Even when using fresh fruit, the alcohol prevents any mold or other nasty stuff to develop. After you strain and bottle it (in a sterilized container), your infused booze will keep for years.
2. Want to take it a step further? Try your hand at fermented sodas!
It’s actually very easy to turn your leftover fruit into delicious sodas. And don’t let a big word like “fermentation” put you off!
We already told you all there is to know about making your own ginger beer. The process is quite similar, the only differences being you’ll need to boil the water and use about three times as much fruit than you would ginger (seeing as ginger has a very concentrated taste).
- To make a sparkling and refreshing raspberry lemonade, boil a quart of water, dissolve ¼ lb of sugar (or you can use honey instead) and add 1 lb of raspberries.
- Stir on low heat to release all the juices, then allow to cool for an hour.
- Strain and squeeze, add the juice of half a lemon and 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast, and pour into a plastic bottle. This is important: a lot of carbonation is going to form, and a glass bottle could explode. Leave about 1 1/2 inches of space at the top, close it tightly, and give it a light shake to make sure everything is mixed. If you only have glass containers at home, we recommend you leave plenty of room at the top (use two containers if you have to) and keep a close watch.
- Leave to sit at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, checking regularly to see if you can still squeeze the bottle. If you’re using glass containers, open every 5 to 6 hours to release some of the pressure.
- Once it’s completely firm, that means it’s packed with gas. Your soda is ready! Open to let some of the carbonation out, close back tightly, and store the fridge – the cold will stop the fermentation process.
- Simply enjoy over ice, or mix in a delicious summer cocktail!
3. Stop letting your citrus peels go to waste
Next time you’re squeezing citrus for juice, remember to remove their peels beforehand. On top of making great garnishes or additions to your infusions, they actually contain liquid gold.
Ever heard of oleo saccharum?
See, there is a huge amount of flavor locked inside citrus peels, and when you mix them with sugar, it helps bring all the fragrant essential oils out into a luxurious syrup – oleo saccharum literally means “oil sugar”. You can use it in cocktails as a deliciously citrusy and complex alternative to simple syrup, with tons of depth of flavor.
Here’s how to make oleo saccharum:
- Remove zest from organic lemons and/or oranges and/or clementines (in any combination), in wide strips with a vegetable peeler. Be careful to leave all of the white pith behind (that’s the bitter part).
- Toss with sugar (1oz per citrus) in a bowl, cover, and let sit for at least 4 hours and up to a day (as with most good things, the flavor intensifies with time). You can stir the mixture and press on the zests every now and then to soften them up and help them release as much oil as possible.
- Once all the oil has been released, strain into an airtight container, pressing on the solids to get as much out as possible. Throw out the zests. Close and keep chilled for up to a month.
4. Grow your own little herb garden
This one is pretty straightforward. As soon as you pick a herb, it starts losing flavor and dying, leaving only a small window to enjoy it at the peak of its freshness. How many times have you bought more herbs than you could use before they ended up wilted in a corner of your fridge?
Potted herbs really don’t take up that much space, nor do they need a lot of care. And growing your own herbs means you’ll always have a fresh supply handy at a fraction of the cost, with zero packaging, and zero waste. Pick only the amount you need and add it at the very last minute: your drinks, salads and dishes will be ten times more fragrant than with the store-bought stuff.