A Sustainable Cocktail Challenge

By Louisa Dodd, SRA Senior Project Manager

As I was arriving into Berlin last week, my download of the BBC Food Programme had taken a boozy turn, “So, you want to be a bartender?” felt like an apt bit of pre-listening for the few days ahead. I was in town for the 2022 Flor de Cana Sustainable Cocktail Challenge European Final, which coincided with BCB (Bar Convent Berlin), the largest and most reputable trade show for the bar industry.

A key discussion point of the programme was around the level of skill required to be a bartender, in the context of the hospitality employees being classified as ‘Unskilled Workers’ in the UK. If there’s one thing I took away from last week, it’s that the bartenders I witnessed competing in the Sustainable Cocktail Challenge were, in my eyes, magicians, scientists, historians, artists, and bubbly hospitality professionals, so ‘skilled’, yes, they were.

To the Sustainable Cocktail Challenge final itself… 10 national finalists had reached this stage by creating cocktails to the following criteria, which the SRA helped Flor de Cana finesse:

What is a sustainable cocktail?

  • Flor de Cana 12-year rum (if using this criterion for your own bar, ensures you quiz the brand on their sustainability credentials)
  • Glassware (reusable or edible)
  • Garnish (edible, made from waste, or non-existent!)
  • Ingredients (up to 5 other ingredients, seasonal and OR locally produced, OR fair trade certified OR derive from repurposed food waste, OR be sourced from sustainable farmers)

Tasked with judging alongside myself were Remy Savage (owner of Bar With a Shape for a Name in Dalston), Daniel Nvskey (founder of Indie Bartender) and Antonio Oliveira from Flor de Cana.

One key story was contestants’ waste from their venues; Italy’s Roberto Consentino using excess ice cream from his family’s gelato business, Dimitris Kaitalidis from Greece produced a milk wash through rum from waste coffee milk in his bar, whilst France’s Colin Lach whipped up a flat pinot noir syrup from waste wine.

Using waste by-products from one ingredient into another was also a key theme, with Germany’s Aaron Sayarjin infusing his cherry stones into the rum, whilst Markos Chorattides from Cyprus created a cordial cocktail from waste Paphos bananas through a method of sous-vide, blending, straining, and fermenting.  

Edible garnish became a talking point, with nearly everyone fermenting, sugaring, dehydrating, or completely reformulating ingredients to make a beautiful garnish with no waste. But, to garnish or not to garnish? This was a question on the lips of many… Spain’s Alejandro Alayon served his cocktail in a sumac rimmed coconut shell which was enough to woo us all.

Another key theme was local sourcing, see Sean Cavanagh using cashew pastries from his neighbour’s café (which would’ve been wasted), for his nutty hit, alongside a celebration of local apple (apple water, apple cordial and an apple juice and pulp dehydrated coaster!). Yohan Laurent from the Netherlands sourced local organic produce to curate his Autumn cocktail, including cranberries, honey, and walnuts from nearby producers.

Every self-respecting bartender knows ice is a serious waste problem. So, it took the chill out the air to discover skilled operators like Andrew Watson from Sweden who created an apple pulp ice ball for his cocktail, and also hear about a UK finalist who froze Avocado stones to act as an ice cube in theirs.

Once all finalists had had their presentations, and a lengthy discussion concluded amongst the judges, the well-deserved win went to Dimitris Kaitalidis, whose aforementioned milk wash rum with a local tamarillo and by-product hop soda cold-infusion concoction, with a leftover citrus jello garnish, goes through to the Global Final in Nicaragua in February 2023.

Unskilled hospitality professionals, these clearly are not! Bartenders and chefs truly are the multi-dimensional craftspeople to our global challenges, one sip at a time.

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