With many of our favourite ingredients on the brink of extinction, there has never been a better time to embrace the sustainable cocktail trend. Dre Masso, Director of Bars and leading mixologist for the Potato Head Group, drives home the importance of using locally sourced ingredients and opens our eyes to the world of waste-free cocktails.

For nearly 20 years, I collaborated, created and ran bars in London. Much of this coincided with a wonderful renaissance period for craft cocktail culture, but there was little appreciation for locally sourced produce or the impact this might later have on the environment. I spent the last four years living in Bali and working at the Potato Head beach club, where we were encouraged to practise in a much more resourceful and sustainable way. The wider area suffered from chronic over tourism, which in turn created high levels of pollution. Since Bali is a remote island with high import taxes, it made no sense to ship in costly ingredients from other parts of the world, particularly given the high-quality organic produce which is readily available.

Why source locally?

We live in a consumerist society which demands immediacy and convenience, whatever the cost, and this mentality has had a noticeable effect on the bar industry. Thankfully, we seem to have reached a tipping point. More and more pioneers within the bar community are speaking out against our “throwaway” culture, using social media to promote and raise awareness for the sustainability movement and highlight the benefits of using locally sourced ingredients.

In Bali, we not only encouraged bartenders to support their local producers, but also to use as much of the ingredient as possible. We came up with our own “root to flower” philosophy – using everything to minimise waste. This style of cocktail making allows for a lot more originality and creative flair. Aside from the obvious benefits for the environment, using locally sourced ingredients can produce a number of other unexpected rewards:

The sustainability movement is something I’m very passionate about, so it’s encouraging to see that it’s slowly taking root elsewhere in the world. It can be a lengthy process, but believe me when I say it’s incredibly satisfying!

Hard Work Pays Off

Of course, as they say, nothing in this world worth having comes easy, and sustainability does present its own challenges. Many bartenders and venue owners I’ve spoken to have had difficulty finding a local producer who can provide them with the necessary ingredients or striking a deal that’s cost effective for their venue in the long term.

There’s no quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution, but a little hard work can produce rewards which are tenfold. Working with local producers and alternating your venue’s offering according to the season is not only more cost-effective, it can also result in incredible original flavour combinations and create a sense of exclusivity. By making a few changes today, you could hugely benefit your business and your customers in the long run.

Top Tips

Here are a few of my top tips to tackle the challenges of locally sourcing ingredients:

Remember:

Local produce in action

Wherever you are in the world, you’ll find unique and exciting local produce to enhance your serves – exploring the incredible flavours of Indonesia was one of the undisputed highlights of living there! Bali is known as the “Spice Island” thanks to its abundance of fragrant vanilla, cloves, cacao, coffee, cassia, nutmeg and mace.

Cacao grows all over Bali, but we took a trip into the heart of the island to get our first harvest. Following our “root to flower” philosophy, we made a sweet puree from the fruit which encases the beans, homemade bitters from the husk and a delicious liqueur from the fermented chocolate nibs. The final drink, “Xocolatlātl”, was served in a dried cacao skin.

Xocolatlātl

INGREDIENTS

30ml Chocolate infused Arak

30ml BULLEIT BOURBON WHISKY

1 bar spoon Bar-made mountain chocolate bitters

10ml Bar-made chocolate syrup

10ml Melted dark chocolate

30ml Dark wheat beer and vanilla reduction

METHOD

All ingredients are shaken together then poured over large rocks of ice and garnished

Serve in a dried cacao shell

Garnish with freshly grated dark chocolate

23 grams of alcohol*(according to mls of the serve)


Bloody Mary

This crowd-pleasing classic is another really simple way to utilise locally sourced ingredients:

45ml SMIRNOFF VODKA

120ml Tomato juice

5ml Lemon juice

1-3 Dashes Tabasco sauce

2-4 Dashes Worcestershire sauce

Pinches of salt and pepper

METHOD

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker

Add ice and gently rock the cocktail shaker till chilled

Pour into highball glass

Garnish with lemon wedge and celery stick.

14.2 grams of alcohol*(according to mls of the serve)


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(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)