Innovation trend: sustainable bars

Many of the world’s leading bars are using waste and sustainable practices to create premium serves that push the boundaries of flavour innovation


A growing number of bars are investing in innovative techniques to save energy, reduce waste and make their ingredients go further, positioning eco-serves as a premium product.

As technology and scientific processes have advanced, allowing bars to lengthen the shelf life of ingredients, the most advanced establishments have shifted their focus from producing less waste, to using fewer resources in the first place. And, proving that eco-friendly products and practices can be luxurious, many of the world’s leading bars are using waste to create premium serves that push the boundaries of flavour innovation.

Some examples include:

Second life ingredients

The natural process of fermentation can give a second life to ingredients that may otherwise have been discarded – including leftover fruit – extending their shelf-life, and crucially, transforming their flavour.

In Singapore, Native opened as a bar in 2017 with a focus on Singapore-grown ingredients. Native focuses on circularity, where waste ingredients are either transformed into new ones, or are used as compost to grow its own ingredients. For example, the bar uses fermented ingredients instead of citrus to add sour notes to its drinks. Its lychee wine is fermented with saison yeast, stirred for ten days, then centrifuged and rested. Meanwhile, leftover pineapple skin from its Pineapple Arrack cocktail is blended with koji and left to ferment for a month, and used to make pineapple shoyu.

Wasteland bar opened in Bangkok during the pandemic, and focuses on using upcycled leftover ingredients from the adjoining Bo.lan restaurant. For example, winter melon used to make curries is re-used by soaking left over peels in sugar to create a syrup, or is dried for cocktail garnishes. The Express Solutions No 1 blends cold brew coffee with leftover cola spiced with lemongrass, turmeric and kaffir lime. Other ingredients include leftover wine, or fresh produce grown in the Bo.Ian’s garden.

Zero waste

Bars are also collaborating with other local businesses to make use of waste ingredients such as leftover coffee beans or grounds, or bread and cacao. There is a growing trend for adding an in-house restaurant or partnering with a local eatery in order to create a symbiotic ecosystem, whereby each use products generated by or left over from the other.

Re, an Australian bar that opened in Sydney in April 2021, claims to be the world’s first permanent zero-waste bar. It operates under the motto ‘Waste nothing, taste everything’. Under its new initiative, ‘Never Wasted’, the bar collects food waste from eight other bars and suppliers in Sydney, which are then repurposed into cocktail ingredients, alongside fruit and vegetables from Sydney markets that are not visually appealing. The goal is to create a network that allows hospitality venues to share waste and by-products that other venues can make use of.

Re’s new cocktail menu, launched in April 2023, offers ten serves featuring the ten most wasted food items. These include bread, dairy, chicken and eggs, leafy greens, apples, tomatoes, bananas, rice, seafood shells and root vegetables. The ingredients have been used to create 100 ‘pantry staples’ from which the mixologists can experiment. Its take on a martini, for example, uses waste wine vermouth, an oyster shell amazake, black granny smith apple, and gin.

Locally-sourced alternative ingredients

A number of bars are using locally-sourced alternative ingredients to recreate the flavour components used in classic serves, such as commonly used citrus like lemon. Himkok bar, in Oslo, for example, is almost self-sufficient when it comes to its drinks range, and produces 80% of its spirits in-house, using local ingredients and botanicals, and renewable hydro-generated energy.

Distilling its own spirits, brewing its own beer, and fermenting its own wine, mead and kefir, the bar says it is inspired by what’s available, “allowing us to explore different aspects of Norwegian culture and showcasing true Norwegian flavors”. Citrus, which is difficult to grow in Norway, is replaced with ingredients such as rhubarb, which has a sour flavour profile. Fruit wines meanwhile are made from fermented rhubarb or strawberries.

Closed loop

Penicillin, a leading Hong-Kong bar by Agung Prabowo and Roman Ghale was inspired by the farm-to-table movement, and champions closed-loop production methods for its cocktails. The bar has its own lab to carry out research, as the team works towards a goal of becoming Hong Kong’s first waste-free or “scrap-less” bar; the aim is to have produced minimal waste after each service.

Ingredients for drinks are upcycled from food or drinks waste where possible, or are locally sourced to minimise the bar’s carbon footprint. Building its menu by trial and error when it comes to ingredient experimentation, the bar also self-brews, ferments, grows, and re-uses its cocktail ingredients. The bar estimates that all cocktails on its menu save an average of 150g of CO2 emissions, compared to conventionally produced serves.

Long Arm pub in London also uses a closed loop approach in its aim to be fully sustainable. Grains left from brewing are used to feed a fish farm, while waste from the fish is used to fertilize the herb garden used for the kitchen, and the fish are used as an ingredient in tacos.

Single producers and local sourcing

Beyond the ingredients themselves, many sustainable bars are also looking more deeply into the everyday sustainable practices that their suppliers use, electing to only work with those that align with their values. London’s Tayēr + Elementary, for example, have chosen not to work with suppliers that use single-use packaging.

In 2023, Paris-based Little Red Door bar announced its Progressive Producer guidelines, stating that it will not use products made outside of Europe unless it meets certain ethical and eco guidelines. The bar has also stopped using coffee, tea, cacao, or tropical fruits, while citrus is only used when in season. Bar snacks are limited to French-grown olives and nuts. To reduce waste, no napkins, cocktail sticks or straws are used. Any garnishes used are edible, and are made from by-products of producing its other ingredients, alternatively, locally grown micro herbs are delivered by bike courier.

You may also be interested in reading:

Sustainability concerns drive interest in organic, natural and alternative wines
Growing trend for upcycled ingredients in beverage alcohol
The 8 drivers of change for beverage alcohol in 2023 and beyond


The above analysis reflects IWSR data from the 2023 data release. For more in-depth data and current analysis, please get in touch.

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