It’s hard to turn down a cocktail that’s loaded with some of the most delicious ingredients. And when that cocktail is also focused on sustainability, it tickles not only the palate but also the curiosity.
This new rising renaissance in the cocktail world however goes beyond just forgoing plastic straws. For cocktails, it’s about reducing food waste, buying local ingredients, and utilising brands that prioritise sustainability as well. It has more to do with reducing as much waste as possible from the cocktail-making process - reusing ingredients that would normally end up in the trash.
So how is a cocktail giving back to the Earth? How am I sequestering carbon by drinking a cocktail? It wasn't until I decided to go to the Reka:Bar's (regarded as one of Malaysia's most sustainable bars) pop-up at the urban gastro-bar, Klap in Khan Market, Delhi. Reka:Bar’s founder, Giovanni Magliaro, and head bartender, Joel Poon, are on an India tour to three cities - Delhi, Mumbai and Goa.
While sustainability is a major concern, I was eager to savour the line of tipples, which may have a genuine commitment to planetary health as well.
The tantalising menu
Entering Klap is always a delight - the tall glass windows and the mirror installations on the walls and ceilings add to the expanse of the space. The vibe is urban luxury with elements like textured hand-plastered walls, mood lighting, marble top tables, cane chairs and lounge seating with faux leather upholstery contributing to a tastefully done up décor.
If, however, you walk into one of these swanky places and see glittering tables, you may not think about mindfully consuming cocktails. But Reka:Bar’s innovative circular colour-coded menu titled, ‘The Domino Effect’ brought me back to the purpose of my visit. Magliaro and Poon’s thrilling cocktail menu for the evening showcased rich tropical flavours of pineapple, coconut, cocoa mango and passion fruit, crafted with the hearty botanicals of Bombay Sapphire’s fine gin.
There were four cocktails on the menu that showed how each drink was linked to the one next to it, like a domino of ingredients, or as the menu stated, ‘a chain reaction of flavour’. “Well, The Domino Effect is basically our way to doing sustainable cocktails. It’s a chain reaction of flavours. So, what we do is reuse the ingredients to their core. One primary ingredient will be reused after preparation for a couple of drinks. Rather than throwing away the leftovers, we reuse that ingredient as a garnish in the next cocktail,” explains Magliaro.
As I tasted three of the four cocktails, I realised they weren't designed to layer tasting profiles. Each drink presents an entirely new encounter. The components are not companions but are combined to create something new and unknown. There was truly something spectacular about the cocktails.
Tasting the distinct cocktails:
The first cocktail I tasted was ‘Strawberry Feels’ concocted with Campari, Bacardi Cuatro, pineapple, coconut and cacao mist. Sweet and refreshing, you could taste the pineapple and coconut; somehow, the flavours worked rather well together.
‘Wine? Not’ is another cocktail that’s worth a glass, and probably is my current favourite. Well, it was not really a wine cocktail, but made to mimic one. With the freshness of taste from the parsley distillate, as well as the addition of coconut and passionfruit kefir that paved the way for initial notes of tropical fruity taste, added a flavour that was reminiscent of New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc. A clean, crisp and creamy Tried and True vodka completes the wine’s likeness. With a dehydrated mango and parmesan chip garnish, it was there imagining of a wine and cheese pairing. Quite creative, I must say.
The last one was ‘Mango…going… gone’, made with Widges gin, artichoke aperitif, bay Campari, cacao husk, mango yoghurt and banana skin gel. I felt like the cocktail was a twist on the classic fierce Negroni, with higher bitter notes yet came with a refreshing feel. The banana skin gel added a playful touch to the drink.
Mixologists are increasingly looking at showcasing indigenous flavours and ingredients while consciously celebrating the natural environment and using drinks as a vehicle for expression. “What we are essentially trying to do is cut down on wastage as much as possible. There are so many ingredients and things that we just throw into the trash on a daily basis, especially in busy bars. Our primary emphasis was to elevate the training experience, but also to cut down the wastage,” adds Poon.
Though the cocktails tasted unique and innovative, I would have appreciated more insight into how they were made sustainably - the glassware used or the sourcing of the ingredients. Regardless of whether or not your cocktail meets all the criteria, anti-waste strategies are gaining traction among bartenders around the world, but calling a cocktail truly sustainable may be difficult, if not impossible in the rapidly evolving beverage industry.
Reka:Bar would be hosting their further pop-ups in Soho House, Mumbai on 22nd September and in Hideaway, Goa on September 23.