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Making cocktails creates a lot of waste. But not on Earth Day at this Austin bar

Arianna Auber
aauber@statesman.com
The Tiki-la Colada is a tiki-inspired cocktail that Drink.Well will serve on Earth Day with a low-waste focus.

It might not be something you think about when ordering a cocktail at your favorite local bar — that the creation of the drink tends to produce a lot of thrown-out ingredients.

But increasingly, as the food and drinks industries have become more environmentally conscious in their practices, bartenders are more careful about the waste their cocktails produce: the citrus pulp left over after freshly squeezed juice, the egg yolks discarded to make whiskey sours and the plastic straws customers sip their drinks with, to name a few examples.

One local bar, North Loop’s Drink.Well, has decided to spotlight the slow strides toward eco-friendly mixology on Earth Day with a special afternoon happy hour. 

“Much like the conversation around 'head to tail' cuisine changed the way we think about consuming meat, bartenders have the opportunity to better honor the fresh citrus, fruits, vegetables and herbs they work with day in and day out in,” Drink.Well owner Jessica Sanders said.

The happy hour from 2 to 5 p.m. on April 22 will feature sustainably minded Patrón Tequila drinks, including one in which every element of the cocktail is completely reusable, according to the bar. Called the Tiki-la Colada, the tiki-inspired, low-waste tipple features coconut-washed Patrón Reposado Tequila, coconut water, a pineapple-allspice syrup, fresh lime juice and orgeat. 

Cocktails like this one “show how to take a few key, fresh ingredients and really stretch their use to maximize everything that ingredient can offer a cocktail flavor, texture or visual appeal,” Sanders said.

So what exactly does a low- or zero-waste cocktail mean? Well, the “cocktail contains coconut water and also uses the coconut shell to ‘wash’ the tequila in the recipe,” according to the bar. Pineapple is then incorporated “to create a spiced shrub as well as a drinking vessel. Plus, the cocktail is served in the hollowed-out pineapple and uses a lemongrass straw.” 

The most-wasted bar ingredient of citrus is also not being abandoned in the Tiki-la Colada. Although the recipe calls for fresh lime juice, Drink.Well bartenders won’t throw the entire fruit away after squeezing for juice, saving it to create lime wheels for garnish. 

Ironically, cocktail preparation has become wasteful in part because of an almost ubiquitous move on the part of bartenders to make better-for-you drinks, Sanders said. 

“It is terrific that we've abandoned processed ingredients in cocktails and the use of fresh produce and 'from scratch' preparation techniques is now becoming a nearly universal standard. However, it also potentially leads to a great deal of waste,” she said.

Bartenders and bar owners like Sanders aren’t the only ones being eco-friendly. Patrón Tequila, the featured spirit of Drink.Well’s Earth Day happy hour, is made at Patrón’s Jalisco distillery with a constant focus on cutting back the brand’s environmental impact, by creating compost from leftover agave and installing a natural gas pipeline for energy, for example.

Proceeds from the happy hour will go toward the Pease Park Conservancy and Bruning Green park in the North Loop neighborhood.

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