Sustainably Spirited Bars

By Kate Dranginis, The Sustainable Restaurant Association

It’s a quiet afternoon in the bar you’re working in, so you start stacking spirit bottles on top of each other for fun and to see how high you can get them to reach. If you made it up to the moon and back, ten times, you’d have a pretty clear idea of the sheer volume of spirit bottles we produce globally each year, 40 billion. I’ll say that again, 40 billion glass spirit bottles. Those 40 billion glass bottles generate around 22 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Spirit bottles are beautiful, they’re heavy, thick, carved, coloured glass, that may sit on your drink shelf proudly at home, or in your favourite bar as a beacon that your favourite spirit is served here. That make sense. What makes far less sense, is that bars plough through these bottles quickly and some of the beautiful bottles will never be displayed, just emptied into prebatch cocktails and the bottle thrown out. For example, Raffles Hotel in Singapore, the supposed birthplace of the Singapore Sling, serves upwards of 1,000 of its signature cocktail daily, using 52 bottles of Gordons gin. The gin bottles are shipped in their boxes of six, emptied into huge mixing containers and the bottles tossed. Surely there’s a better, more sustainable way? 

I first heard of ecoSPIRITS last year, while researching sustainable bar alternatives, for a new bar project in the UK. However, at this time they were only operating in the Asia Pacific region. Disappointed, I thought little more about ecoSPIRITS until around a week ago, when a Facebook invitation popped up for the ecoSPIRITS UK launch in Edinburgh (OMG!).  

I was so excited; I was the first to arrive and was greeted by one of the owners of ecoSPIRITS, a wonderfully well-travelled hospitality veteran, originally from the Czech Republic and an ambassador from Mangrove Spirits, ecoSPIRITS UK launch partner. We walked through the whole concept from initial idea to a running list of small and large venues already up and running with the model (countless places in Hong Kong, Raffles Hotel, Singapore, The Savoy, London).   

Briefly, ecoSPIRITS, is a refillable system for spirits. Instead of shipping in boxes of 6 x 70cl bottles of spirits to your bar, you ship in a neat (green) ‘eco tote’, that can be used to directly dispense spirits into glasses, or refill spirits bottles that can then be displayed on the bar. Empty eco totes are collected, taken to local refilling stations (made from repurposed shipping containers), cleaned, sanitised and refilled. The eco tote itself in genius invention that has clearly been designed by people with hospitality experience. The all-important question: what is it going to cost? Nothing! Well actually that’s not quite true, it is likely to reduce your costs. The main expense with spirits is it’s beautiful packaging, remove that and you’re looking at an approximate average saving of 15%. Currently the spirits on offer are generally smaller, independent brands as the lack of bureaucracy allows them to move quicker, but the bigger brands are interested too.  

This really isn’t a sales pitch, and I haven’t covered everything that ecoSPIRITS are doing (social responsibility, tree-planting, etc). But, this is the start of a huge change in bar-world, it’s greener, easier and cheaper. It’s simple, thought-out genius and that’s what we need.  

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