The art of low-impact bartending

Laura Foster

Laura Foster

17 October 2016

The buzzword that seems to be on everyone in the on-trade’s lips is sustainability, and this seminar at Bar Convent Berlin was no exception.

Hosted by bar consultant Richard Hunt in conjunction with Iain Griffiths of Mr Lyan and Trash Tiki, and Doug McMaster of Silo in Brighton, the trio looked at modern bartending and how the on-trade could adopt a more sustainable approach.

Throwing around phrases such as ‘Waste is a failure of the imagination’ and ‘Imagine a world without waste’, it was certainly an inspiring talk.

‘We are probably in the midst of the biggest leap forward as a society than any age has had since the renaissance,’ declared Hunt. ‘If you look at it, an industrial consumer society and the growth of cocktail culture go hand in hand. But we are a massively wasteful business.

‘We cannot consumer at the rate that we currently are, and the barriers to exist in a more sustainable way are no longer as high as they once were.’

Hunt used the example of bev naps to illustrate his point: They apparently cost the UK bar and restaurants over £34million, and cause deforestation of an area bigger than the City of London, every year.

On top of that, he said, if UK industry managed its resources better it could make £10billion more profits, create 314,000 more jobs and reduce Greenhouse emissions by 27 million tons, according to Friends of the Earth.

‘There’s a system in our bars and restaurants that’s treated as acceptable practice,’ responded Griffiths.

So what can be done? The trio presented a manifesto for people in the on-trade to work with…

The pillars of the low-impact bartending model:

  • Honour the dignity of the business, your environment and your products with the care and due diligence that they deserve
  • Know the system of food and drink
  • Work backwards to resolve problems
  • Train, value and empower your team
  • Treat every limitation as an opportunity for creativity
  • Think in circles: reuse before you recycle


Case Study 1: Silo in Brighton

At this point, Griffiths spoke about McMasters and his work at Silo before handing the floor over. ‘I know there’s no other restaurant in the world that’s more important for you to visit than this one right now,’ he declared.

McMasters then went on to share the working practices of Silo. ‘We specifically didn’t want a bin in the restaurant,’ he shared. ‘However, there’s no such thing as zero waste. Of all the materials that come in, we only throw one per cent out: pens, squeezey food packets that have been left… we call it alien waste.

‘It’s about thinking in circles. We decided to mill all our own flour to avoid the packaging… then we discovered that it tastes a lot better. It actually tastes of wheat, which then gave birth to the whole caveman idea.’

The restaurant ensures that all products delivered to it comes in reusable packaging, such as crates, pails and urns, and Silo has an aerobic composter that can generate up to 60kg of compost in 24 hours – the capacity of which is so high that the restaurant offers the facility up to neighbouring businesses too.


Case Study 2: Mr Lyan

Griffiths then took over, discussing the work of the teams at White Lyan and Dandelyan.

‘We never wanted to be one-trick ponies,’ he started. ‘White Lyan attacked earlier up the waste timeline by eschewing all brands’ in an attempt to tackle transportation and packaging.’ The team have taken that further by recently introducing items such as drinks mats made out of plastic bags.

‘Dandelyan’s concept, however, was to benose to tail, but for plant life.’ Griffiths gave the life of a lemon as an example: ‘We mummify our lemons. We squeeze them, then put the fruit in tubs with embalming salts. We add water to this to create a citrus saline solution, then take the husk and dehydrate to use it as a vessel for a palate cleanser.’

Griffiths also advised to pre-zest your lemons before running them through the juicer too.


Before they wrapped up, the trio listed further ingredients that could be made, using the example of juiced citrus: ‘bar-malade’, off-cut cordial, tinctures and bitters, pickles, kombucha, kvass, tepache and beer.

If this inspires you, then perhaps start with one aspect of your business, see what can be done to reduce waste or to improve the sustainability around it, and then work from there. As McMasters so eloquently put it, ‘waste is a failure of the imagination.’



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