You’re not usually thinking of words like “environmental sustainability” when you’re at the bar nursing an Old Fashioned.
But times have changed, and the provenance of a quality cocktail has become riveting. Maybe it’s a fancy marketing narrative, but the origin stories matter, and bartenders are trying to reduce waste while making delicious drinks.
“If you’re producing a drink and not really thinking about where it comes from or where the waste is going, then you’re obviously not very sustainable,” says Whearty. Unused produce turns either into staff meals or something useful for the menu. Like the Bee Pollen, pictured above. It’s a heady concoction of wild bee pollen, oak, thyme, dark chocolate and yes, lemon charcoal. Lemon husks are burnt to charcoal after the used lemons are vacuum-sealed with spirit and sugar for limoncello. Whearty likens it to how a butcher thinks of his cuts of meat. Your primary cut is the juice, while the secondary cut’s the husk. The circle is complete without a need for waste.
That said, vanilla pods are also used as straws for flavour and aroma, and cocktails like the Chocolate Pinot employ oxidised red wine. The wine is salvaged by cacao nibs through a 12-hour cold-infusion to rid of any unsavoury characteristics.
Operation Dagger is located on 7 Ann Siang Hill
As its name suggests, Native is an advocate for local and regional produce. The Peranakan, its take on the kueh salat, is a defiant mix of flavours — such as chilli, galangal and jackfruit rum — that marry beautifully. Photo by Jasper Yu
Mudaliar does his own foraging and flavour-profile matching. Botanicals like pink jasmine go through a rotary evaporator to instil delicate flavours into spirits. In this way, the team creates infusions such as vinegar and kombucha to replace citrus fruits.
This line of thinking at Native extends to mindful cocktails and a zero-plastic policy. The bar grows its own herbs, supports local art — there’s a mural in progress, painted with leftover botanicals — and works with a solar company to harvest electricity. There’s also hardly any waste at the end of each day. So far the record has been eight grams.
Native is located on 52A Amoy Street
Junior the Pocket Bar
The 10-seater bar has two major themes a year, and it is currently all things New Orleans. There are fiery Cajun bites and classics like the Sazerac and Grasshopper. Head bartender Peter Chua will be honest with you. “On a scale of one to 10, we are a four in terms of sustainable goals,” he says. “We are not designed to be 110 per cent sustainable, but we do our best. From shipping in stuff to buying things online, all these create carbon footprints. There’s no one clear win, so you got to pick the lesser of two evils. How do we give a sh*t without wasting too much? At the end of the day, we owe it to our guests to bring them the best quality we can.”
Junior uses straws when necessary and only the ones made from potato starch. The cool thing is how much they feel like plastic. Made by Bio-Pot, these straws have a shelf life of 21 months and are absolutely biodegradable. “People think that there’s one holy grail solution to saving the earth. But there are a lot of things we do that people don’t see,” Chua continues. “My biggest pet peeve is wasting water. After service, people tend to wash away leftover ice with water. Washing frozen water with water? That makes zero sense to me.”
Junior the Pocket Bar is located on 43 Tanjong Pagar Road