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Cocktail bartenders and zero waste techniques go hand-in-hand today. Along with using local fresh ingredients and mixing different base spirits for a flavour twist to a cocktail classic.

Climate change and environmental concern are driving changes in bartender practice. Consumers are as keen to know a bartender’s zero waste techniques when preparing ingredients as they are for enjoying the flavours.

What are zero waste techniques?

Zero waste techniques behind the bar are focused upon:

  • Reusing, recycling or upcycling ingredients

Bartenders are looking to:

  • Throw away fewer, leftover ingredients
  • Discover further ways to use leftover ingredients
  • Find more sustainable alternatives

When asked, more than half (51 per cent) of bartenders say they are now focused upon creating zero-waste cocktails, according to Martini Bar Cocktail Trends Report, 2021.

Teaching zero-waste techniques are key to the AlchemyBar ethos. Find the right Alchemy Bar course for you.

Key zero waste techniques and tips

Better use of ingredients

  • Fruits, peels, rinds and seeds

Top of the list for creating zero waste cocktails is “getting the most use” out of the ingredients you have chosen. This means no longer throwing any left-over fruits or peels into the bin. Even those you reject for being too ugly or wonky for using as a garnish.

A great alternative is to use as a taste infusion by distilling them into syrups or spirit. It will give a great flavour boost to standard spirits.


Whenever you use fresh lime juice in your cocktail. Simply slice the remaining squeezed rind into chunks and put in a jar with vodka.

After 7 – 14 days you should now have “lime-flavoured” vodka. After straining out any lime bits you can even reuse a second time to infuse a sugar syrup and make lime syrup.


Another zero-waste technique is to ferment leftover ingredients into sodas, wine or tepache*.

It involves boiling fruits with sugar and water. Once cooled, yeast is added and the resulting mix will then start to ferment.

The process of fruit fermentation is one of the fastest, mostly taking around 24 to 48 hours. However, it’s possible to ferment the fruit for up to 2 to 3 weeks.

*Tepache is made from the peel and rind of pineapples, sweetened with brown sugar, then seasoned with powdered cinnamon and served cold.

Dehydrated garnishes

Zero waste definitely applies to garnishes decorating the glass.  They are too easily discarded after the drink itself has been enjoyed.

One solution can be to ensure all cocktail garnishes are edible. However, bartenders are increasingly opting to leave their cocktails ungarnished.

But what happens when a cocktail demands to have that final, quirky touch perched on the glass rim! A great zero waste technique is to use dehydrated fruit.

Simply pop into a oven on a low heat. When fully dehydrated, place in a plastic bag before securing in an airtight container, and stored in cool, dry, dark area (usually 4 -12 months).

Reusable ice cubes

Rocks need to be zero-waste too. Saving on water resources as well as energy consumption and emissions.

Sustainable alternatives include:

  • Stone Ice Cubes – made from marble or soapstone in various colours, and do not absorb water. Simply put in the freezer for a minimum of three hours. Then add to drinks already chilled so they remain cold.
  • Stainless-Steel Cubes – highly effective for cooling down a drink. They quickly reach freezing point and keep drinks colder for long periods after only two hours in the freezer.

Ferment leftover wine

Left-over wine can be made into syrups or vinegar or for use in mixing other drinks.

Typical uses include:

  • White wine syrups for gin cocktails
  • Red wine syrups work for rum and whisky cocktails

Restaurant bars are known to use week-old wine for making their sauces or marinades!

Bio-degradable straws and napkins

Replacing plastic straws in cocktails and napkins on the bar is a big bartender plus.

These days, straws need to be made from sustainable materials such as:

  • Bamboo – 100 per cent most bio-degradable, and perfect with Tiki.
  • Papaya leaves – ideal for  tropical cocktails and juices.
  • Wheat plant – great with all types of retro drinks.
  • Glass – always a cool and clean option.
  • Stainless Steel – perfect for the longer drink such as highball.

There’s even bio-degradable “edible straws”, in a selection of drink-compatible flavours.

Paper cocktail / beverage napkins can also be replaced with ‘linen-style’ napkins, made from airlaid (non-woven), natural wood fibres, which are actually stronger.

Learn essential zero-waste techniques – whatever course you choose! Discover sustainable mixology at AlchemyBar