Monday, November 29

Sipping a Banana Peel: Sydney Bar Makes Waste Minimization Sexy | Cocktails

YDon’t expect to see 82,000 bottles of milk at a cocktail bar. You won’t see them in Re on Sydney’s South Eveleigh either, but they are there. The Melbourne Replas have transformed them into elegant terrazzo-style tables and bars.

“Everything you touch as a guest is recycled: the seat, the lid, the glass, your plate,” says Matt Whiley of his new place. You want Re to be a zero-waste bar, and its eco-friendly report goes beyond what’s in your martini or spritz.

The elegant bar counter, ladder, and other plastic accessories once carried milk. Philippe Starck’s stools are molded from “material swept from the warehouse floor,” says the award-winning bartender, who moved to Sydney in November 2018 to launch a pop-up version of his London bar, Scout. The plates are shaped from excess clay from tableware brand Mud Australia, while the glasses are “imperfect” rejects from candle and glass makers Maison Balzac. They usually throw them away, but now they serve margaritas flavored with salvaged melons.

The early hype around the venue heralded it as the world’s first permanent zero-waste cocktail bar. After opening in mid-April, Re now describes itself as a “regenerative bar and kitchen.”

Re's BP & B cocktail, made with banana skin and distilled peanut butter
The BP & B: Re cocktail is made with banana peels and distilled peanut butter. Photograph: Carly Earl / The Guardian

“I think it’s very easy to say ‘that bar is zero waste.’ We are not zero waste, we are not going to be zero waste for a while, ”Whiley says of the change. Getting there will be a long-term goal and will involve a website documenting Re’s waste disposal efforts, failures, and lessons, as well as his Never Wasted initiative, which helps other bars develop sustainable cocktails.

It might not be zero, but Re already does an impressive job of turning landfill produce into highly drinkable food.

The salvaged banana peel might not sound appealing, but Whiley soaks the skin in rum and distills peanut butter to create a caramel-rich tribute to the Old Fashioned, topped with a banana crunch. The same goes for the Wimbledon Gimlet. Pickled strawberries and cordial made with leftover ricotta whey. Has Whiley fermented since last March? No thanks, you might say. But pair it with vodka and bar magic and it tastes like strawberries and cream.

Matt Whiley at Bar Re
Matt Whiley at Re, now listed as a “regenerative bar and kitchen.” Photograph: Carly Earl / The Guardian

Whiley is supplied with a wild card variety of Sydney Direct Fresh Produce surplus ingredients. Unsold trays of nectarines are easily squeezed for cocktails. But a request for “some herbs” resulted in six boxes arriving at the bar. Most will end up in compost. Meanwhile, he admits that he has to improve at communicating what he wants.

He is helped by a team with excellent resumes: Ho Song (Cantina OK, PS40), Jake Downe (who worked with Whiley on Scout) and Evan Stroeve, who was a bar manager at Bulletin Place when he won the best sustainable bar program in 2019 Australian Bar Awards.

When Re was recently handed a tray of avocados, Whiley instantly admitted defeat. “They were a little too soft and they are very sensitive to time,” he says. “Ho had an immediate solution: take them to his mother’s house [sushi] restaurant. “They were turned into salmon and avocado rolls and eaten before lunch.

The Autumn American cocktail
The Autumn Americano cocktail includes red vermouth, spent coffee grounds, and a fizzy drink made from diverted food residue. Photograph: Carly Earl / The Guardian

“In our first order, we got loads of cherry tomatoes and beets. And Evan made a beet and cherry tomato soda, ”says Whiley. “I’m not sure about this, buddy,” he told Stroeve. “But it was so good.”

The soda adds a deep pink fizz to Autumn Americano, where it combines with spent coffee grounds from a local café, red vermouth, and a Campari-type appetizer called St Felix. This may sound like bad cocktail math (how could these ingredients taste good together?), But the result is like a drunken creamy grown-up soda, so delicious.

Although it is not always successful. “I have tried about 10 times to ferment rock melon and it never works. It just becomes slimy and horrible, ”he says. Instead, he serves it as a bar snack, slathered with wasabi oil and salt. It also creates a refreshing syrup for Re’s best-selling melon margarita.

The interior of Re
At Re, everything a visitor touches is recycled, from the tables to the plates, says Whiley. Photograph: Carly Earl / The Guardian

Not that you can always know. The lights were once mushrooms and the sidewalk covers were previously pineapple leaves. But they look like the designer furniture you’d see in any cool bar. Meanwhile, I wanted to combat people’s low expectations of a green place. “Are you going to sit in a shed and eat things that are spoiling?” you imagine people asking.

That’s why there are no hippie platitudes on the menu. You could easily leave Re and have no idea of ​​the bar’s waste minimization mission. You may not realize that your drinks were flavored with leftover strawberry pulp from a charity cocktail event that Whiley kept in his home’s small freezer for nine months (his wife was relieved when he turned it into strawberry wine and was finally able to put ice in her freezer). again). “I’m not here to tell people how to enjoy their night,” he says.

Working in Re involves distilling, dehydrating, fermenting, centrifuging or breaking down the ingredients to make them last longer and become drinkable. Sometimes the results are hidden: the bar’s outdoor furniture hides fermented sauerkraut, barley wine and other products made from reclaimed products (such as 50 liters of strawberry wine).

“We don’t see it as hard work, we see it as a reward for our efforts,” he says. “We never consider products as waste, we never talk about waste, we talk about rejuvenating them, giving that thing that no one else wants to have a purpose.”

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