One Bartender’s Garbage Is Another Bartender’s Secret Ingredient

One of the biggest trends in the cocktail world is bartenders making drinks using ingredients that are typically discarded. All over the country, bartenders are finding unique, flavorful uses for day-old fruit, wilted mint, flat Champagne, and various other previously trashed ingredients.

Part of the reason for this trend is because bartenders, like many jobs, are seeing a shift in how they look at waste. “Being wasteful is simply just wrong,” says Tenzin Samdo, cocktail curator at Café Artscience in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Why not utilize all the ingredients and resources that we have around us?”

Samdo makes a drink called “Titi Monkey” that uses eggshell and orange peel. “Bartenders normally throw these away, but we turn them into part of the cocktail.” The drink also features egg white, matcha, pisco, sandalwood, orange peel, lemon, sugarcane. On top of helping to eliminate bar waste, the cocktail is also made to draw attention to a good cause. “Joining the endangered species list in 2012, the Titi Monkey is native to the tropical rainforest regions that span from Peru to Colombia.”

Brian Evans, Head Bartender at Sunday in Brooklyn in New York City, makes a nostalgic drink called “Care Bear Stare” that makes use of leftover ingredients. “Inspired by the classic Cobbler cocktail, Sunday In Brooklyn’s Care Bear Stare features a cordial made with cut ends/garnishes/shells of citrus fruit from the bar that’s been melded together with equal parts by weight of sugar and leftover grapefruit and orange juices.”

Brock Schulte, bartender at The Monarch in Kansas City, makes a cocktail that uses aquafaba, the juice that canned chickpeas are held in. “When added to a cocktail it can add a touch of salinity which is automatically awesome for any citrus based cocktail but also lends a protein style matrix similar to egg whites that give the cocktail a smooth creamy and full-bodied mouthfeel.” The cocktail is called “The Viceroy Revisited” and contains ginger root infused Tito’s vodka, Lime, carbonic macerated Concord grapes, aquafaba and a hint of sparkling rosé. Another cocktail, “Narrow Cut Noble Pursuit” uses kiwi peels in an oleo-saccharum to produce another syrup from waste when using the meat in another cocktail.

Another discarded ingredient that bartenders have embraced is pineapple fronds and skins. Obviously, when you removed the pineapple fronds and skin to get to the fruit inside, you usually toss it in the garbage. But, if you are a fan of Tiki-style drinks, you are doing yourself a disservice. “To make pineapple syrups or pineapple juice, you generally remove the fronds and cut away the skin,” says Will Benedetto, Cocktail Curator at In Good Company Hospitality in New York City. “For years I’d thrown away the scraps until one day I tossed them into rum and let it sit. The result was fantastic, lifting the rum into a complex spirit with funky notes of ripe banana and grassy aromas, with a pleasant subdued pineapple finish.”

Some bars go beyond just using discarded ingredients here and there. The strategize to utilize every ingredient. That is the case at Boiler Nine Bar + Grill in Austin Texas. “Citrus fruits are zested before they are juiced, and the zest (and some pith) are used in our cordials,” says bartender Jason Stevens. Some fruits that they use for cocktail ingredients – like strawberries – tend to spoil quickly, so they use organic, freeze dried strawberry powder to eliminate spoilage and reduce its weight, which in turn, reduces the amount of energy required to ship in. “Fresh fruit that we use for garnish is often dehydrated or pickled, increasing its life behind the bar. Leftover citrus juice from the end of the night is used by the kitchen.” He adds, “What little waste that remains is composted.” If the choice is between bringing in a trendy ingredient that’s cool but ultimately wasteful, they’ll look to a more sustainable/multi-use ingredient. “It’s not just one cocktail we do this for at Boiler Nine, it’s an overall philosophy of how we operate our bars.” Their take on the strawberry margarita, “Tequila Rose”, contains Arette Tequila, rosé, freeze-dried strawberry and lime on the rocks. “It utilizes a strawberry rosé syrup made from freeze-dried strawberry powder.” Another cocktail, “Night Bloom”, a citrus, smoke, and vegetal agave cocktails is made with mezcal y sotol, roast pineapple, makrut lime leaf, mole and a tajin rim. “It utilizes pineapple skin in the syrup and makrut lime leaf from our herb garden.”

The trend of using previously discarded ingredients has even made its way into the world of mocktails (cocktails without alcohol). Liquid Lab NYC creators Parker Boase and Gregory Lucas are making mocktails that are healthy and infused with ingredients like Activated Charcoal and blackberries.

Check out a few recipes below:


Care Bear Stare

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From Brian Evans, head bartender at Sunday In Brooklyn in New York City


1 oz Aperol

1 oz East India Solera Sherry

.5 oz lime juice

.5 oz Redeemed Fruit

.25 oz cinnamon syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar to water, crush 2 cinnamon sticks per every 250g of sugar. Let steep for 30 mins, strain)

Preparation: Whip all ingredients together with pebble ice, dump into glass and top with more pebble ice. Garnish with grapefruit, orange, lime slices and fresh mint sprig.


Another Daiquiri

From Will Benedetto, Cocktail Curator at In Good Company Hospitality

Flavored Rum: In a storage container, combine 750 ml of El Dorado 5 year, 750 ml of Plantation 3 Star, and 250 ml of Rhum Clement with this skins and fronds of two pineapples. Allow to sit for 2 days, unrefrigerated then strain and bottle.


2.25 ounces of Blended pineapple rum

1 ounce of fresh lime juice

.75 ounces of Simple Syrup

3 drops of saline

Dehydrated or fresh lime (for garnish)

Preparation: Combine all ingredients into a shaker tin and shake hard. Strain the liquid into a chilled glass and garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel.


Midnight Detox 

From Liquid Lab NYC


3 oz brewed black tea

1 tablespoon of black activated charcoal

1 oz of Infused Stevia Syrup (1 cup of stevia, one cup of hot water, one tablespoon of turmeric)

mint garnish

1 skewer of blackberries

Preparation: Combine the hot brewed black tea with the activated charcoal.  Boil the Stevia, hot water and turmeric together and add 1oz to the drink. Top with mint and a skewer of blackberries.


Better with Age

From Jon Howard, Head Bartender at Henley in Nashville, TN


1.5oz Angostura 7yr. Rum

¾ oz. Barrel Aged Pineapple Shrub

¾ oz. Pineapple Demerara

¾ oz. Lime

Angostura Bitters (float)

Preparation: In a tall or oval glass, add lime juice followed by remaining ingredients. Add crushed ice and swizzle. Place Pineapple leaves into the glass along with a straw and then dash in several dashes of angostura bitters until the top of the drink is lightly covered. Top with more crushed ice and enjoy.