Parisian bar opening the door to a better drinks future

By Tom Tanner, Sustainable Restaurant Association

Little Red Door has opened a large green door to every other bar on the planet with a blueprint for how to operate with people and the planet at the very core of everything you do. Cheers to the 2022 winner of the Sustainability Award at The World’s 50 Best Bars sponsored by Ketel One.  

Farm to Glass isn’t just some kind of loosely bandied about term at Little Red Door. Oh no, it is a way of life, or at least doing business. The menu really does read like something of a manifesto and the message is shared beyond the four walls, in articles, talks, podcasts and presentations.  

Producers take centre stage with each drink centring on an individual producer and their product. Talking of the ‘four walls’, these are adorned with portraits of these hero producers, providing drinkers with a sense of connection to the people behind the ingredients they’re enjoying.

The emphasis on local produce is about to get a whole lot stronger. From 2023 the bar will not serve a drink made outside of Europe unless it’s been sourced using its Progressive Producer guidelines. In fact, it’s not just the drinks themselves. You won’t find any exotic fruit, coffee, tea or cacao at Little Red Door and citrus is only used when in season.

Saffron cocktail

If you want your drink to make an even more positive difference, then choose the weekly Good Cause special and €1 will go to that week’s staff chosen charity.

As for the bar snacks, these are limited to French grown nuts and olives.  

Too many bars have a reputation for long, anti-social hours and generally poor working conditions. But behind the Little Red Door, that couldn’t be further from the truth. All staff are on fixed 25-hour contracts, paid above the Paris average wage, and crucially for this award, fully engaged in the ethos of the bar. That means training in the sourcing of the drinks, visiting producers and being tasked with researching and reporting back on important and emerging sustainability issues.  

Team Little Red Door

Waste is another all too frequent bad habit in bars. In Little Red Door? Of course not. You won’t find a single disposable straw, cocktail stick or napkin for starters. Even better, 98% of drinks are delivered in five litre containers and there’s absolutely no packaging waste.  

Garnish, another dirty word in many bars, is anything but here. They’re not only 100% edible but also byproducts of other items used on the menu. The only fresh garnishes used are locally grown micro herbs that are delivered twice a week by bike courier. Taking advantage of its super close working relationship with suppliers, Little Red Door is happy to take any wonky produce as well as gluts as well as items such as ginger that are grown as part of a permaculture approach used by their chosen melon supplier.  

Even the most fastidious bar staff, like at Little Red Door, will produce some waste, and it’s then a case of what you do with that waste. Organic waste here is transformed into insulation for the bar’s food to be delivered in, and coasters for the bar.  

Now that is how to run a bar sustainably – creatively, inclusively and collaboratively.

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