Behind the Bar Bar Talk

Chad Arnholt on Building a Greener Bar

In recent years, people have become far more aware of their personal ecological impact, taking steps to lessen their carbon footprint, reduce waste and live in a way that is—on the whole— better for planet Earth. Bartenders and bar owners are similarly moving towards greater sustainability at work, looking more aggressively for ways to ensure their cocktail programs are eco-friendly.

The noble effort, however, is not without its challenges.

“This issue can be hard to approach for bar owners, as often times design is a critical function in sustainability,” said Chad Arnholt of Tin Roof Drink Community, a beverage consultancy that specializes in green bar design and education. “Often times, bar owners or managers are tackling this [issue] after the bar is open when redesign may be out of the question and making due is the name of the game.”

If a complete design overhaul is not an option, here are five ways that simple day-to-day steps can help your bar go green:

Watch how you rinse.

“The vast majority of waste water comes from irresponsible rinsing. If you’re using a glass sprayer on your tins, try to spray for less than a second. If you are using a sink, try plugging it and using it as a rinse basin (if you can keep it clean). A few seconds cut out of rinsing across 300 cocktails a day can add up to tens of thousands of gallons of saved water.”

Examine equipment and tools with a critical (read: green) eye.

“Dishwashers, ice machines, and coolers aren’t all created equal. Look at your manufacturer’s data sheets and see how much water waste or electricity draw is inherent to each. Ice machines, especially, because some are as much as 85% inefficient (meaning 85% water down the drain), while others are 99% efficient. Glassware, too: Use Nick and Nora glasses instead of giant martinis. You can wash more per cycle!”

Track your produce.

“Does your asparagus or tomato for that crazy cocktail come air-shipped from Columbia? Does it need to be hot-housed? Does that bottle of brandy take a boat ride (good) or truck ride (bad)? Every product has a footprint, and transportation is a huge part of it. Use produce that is local and conducive to your local ecology; fennel in California is drought-resistant, for instance.”

Build simple shortcuts.

“What can you pre-batch and what can you build? Do you really need to strain that Negroni over fresh ice, or would a simple build over ice do?”

Be mindful of portion control.

“Juice to order when you can, and juice what you need—no more. This seems simple, but it’s not just about the waste. Most citrus requires less electricity to store before juicing. Once a lime is juiced, not only do you have to store it cold, it’s also on the clock to go bad.”