Zero Waste Bartending and Sustainable Cocktails: Could This Be the Future of Cocktail Making in Melbourne?

Zero Waste Bartending and Sustainable Cocktails: Could This Be the Future of Cocktail Making in Melbourne?


Right now, the bar scene in Australia is grappling with the idea of sustainability. Some are calling it zero waste. Some are calling it anti waste. Some are simply doing the work of sustainable bartending without making too much of a fuss about it. If you've already tried a cocktail making class in Melbourne you'll know the bartending basics like how to mix, muddle and shake. However sustainable cocktails take this one step further, and are all about mixology with the least amount of impact on the Earth. In order to do this, bartenders are getting inventive with the way they use ingredients and adopting techniques like dehydration, fermentation and infusions to minimise wastage. Intrigued? Read on, because as it turns out, sustainable cocktails are not only good for the environment, but they’re absolutely delicious too.


First of all, are cocktails really that unsustainable?

Sustainability is a hard term to pin down. It can mean different things to different people. The WWF Australia has a pretty rounded definition that might help us better understand the sustainable cocktail movement. They say in order to promote sustainability, there are four main solutions to focus on:

  1. That businesses and industry work to promote sustainable production in order to maintain a healthy supply of raw materials
  2. That industry partners and farmers use less evasive tactics like tree clearing and pollution
  3. That we all rely more on renewable energy alternatives
  4. That we create and maintain protected natural areas.

Now, how does that translate to a cocktail? Well, there’s a lot that goes into a cocktail that you might not consider as being harmful to the environment. Consider the following ingredients and ask yourself whether they strike you as sustainable as the WWF Australia defines it:

  • Liquor. Does your base liquor come from Australia? Does it come from your state? Does it come from your backyard? If not, then someone had to package and ship your liquor from wherever it was produced to the store where you bought it.
  • Juice. Let’s say you’re using fresh pineapple juice. Do you know how the farmers were able to grow that pineapple? Is it possible that they had to deforest and area in order to create the pineapple farm? You can also ask yourself if pineapples are in season or grown in your area. If not, chances are, they had to be transported to you.
  • Tonic water. If you purchase tonic water in a plastic bottle, it’s important to think about the impact that has on the environment. Are those plastic bottles going to be a threat to protected natural areas?

As you can see, there are a lot of ways that a simple cocktail can have a negative impact on the environment. But don’t worry, the sustainable cocktail movement has already gathered momentum, and you can join!

Some of the groundbreakers in the sustainable cocktail movement

In 2018, the vodka company, 42 BELOW, invited contestants from all over Australia and New Zealand to see who could make the most sustainable cocktail. Competitors came together for a Sustainable Cocktail Showcase to share their sustainability projects, and the most original and delicious sustainable cocktails were voted best. Winners, including bars from Sydney, Hobart, and Adelaide, won an eco trip to Bali to celebrate the victory. There were creative glasses made out of fruit. Foraged garnishes. And, while most drinks had no straw, the ones that did made sure to create highly degradable ones. If you want to learn more about how bars in your area are making their own contributions to the movement, make sure to check out Australian Bartender magazine. They have an entire online index of sustainable bartending with stories of trendsetting bars all over the country.

How can you make sure you’re part of the movement, too?

Whether you make your own cocktails at home or you like to go out for a nice drink every once in a while, you might be thinking about how you can make your own habits more sustainable. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Ditch all one-use plastics. Straws, stirrers, plastic cups - they’ve all got to go.
  • Use fresh ingredients that are local and in season. You can do a bit of research to figure out what is in season in your area and only drink or make cocktails that highlight those ingredients. Not only is it better for the environment, but your cocktails will be more delicious. And if you’re making them at home, they’ll actually be cheaper to make.
  • Take a class on sustainable cocktail making. As the trend becomes more popular, you’ll find that it’s easy to learn from professionals about how to create sustainable cocktails that you can make right at home.
  • Spread the word! The more that you talk to your friends, family, coworkers, and anyone else who will listen about the sustainable cocktail movement, the more we will all benefit. The next time you’re at your favourite cocktail bar, make sure to ask if there’s a sustainable option on the menu, or at least if there’s a cocktail on the menu that uses local, in season ingredients. The more customers make sustainability a priority, the more likely bars will be to hop on the trend to a zero-waste bar scene.

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