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In today’s bar scene, sustainability is more than a hot topic––it’s quickly becoming a standard. For those looking to implement earth-saving practices in their own bar programs, perhaps the easiest and most impactful place to start may be the most obvious ingredient on your menu: citrus.
While often a drink’s best friend, citrus is arguably one of the most significant waste products of the modern cocktail bar. “Limes are grown on most continents around the world, and recent figures show that our demand has led to 15.4 million tons being produced in a single year,” says Kelsey Ramage, the co-founder of Trash Tiki, a pop-up and online platform dedicated to reducing waste across the bar industry globally. “The growth process will require water irrigation, fertilization and pesticides, which can result in nutrient leakage from the soil and can unfortunately cause soil to become infertile and cause deadly, toxic chemicals to make their way into the food chain.”
Not only is the growth and production of limes and other citrus fruits becoming harmful to the environment, but further challenges lie ahead post-harvest. “When these limes are first sorted prior to being sent to market, some may be discarded for aesthetic reasons,” says Ramage.
Upon reaching the market, the limes’ journey continues, with retailers and wholesalers further whittling away at the stock by throwing out additional fruits considered unappealing to the eye. Ramage also points out that non-environmentally friendly materials are sometimes used to package fruits at this stage of their lifespan. “You can really see how the industry norm of having fresh lime delivered all over the world for our Daiquiris and Margaritas is seriously problematic,” she says.
This brings us to the theme at hand: making the most out of our citrus for the greater good and, in turn, injecting more creativity into our drinks while saving some cash in the process. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
This is where Trash Tiki’s citrus stock comes into play. The formula, which was conceptualized by Ramage and partner Iain Griffiths alongside Ryan Chetiyawardana in London bar Dandelyan’s juicing room, is a simple yet effective 30-minute process of pressure-cooking spent citrus husks (pulp and all) in water, then straining and adjusting with acid and sugar to produce a liquid that essentially acts as a juice substitute or volume enhancer. It’s a waste-reduction and resource-doubling technique that offers something the usual suspects (oleo saccharum, cordials, preserves, dehydrating for garnishes, and the like) do not.
In short, Trash Tiki’s citrus stock is the new kid on the block that not only offers yet another means of using every part of the fruit but also aids in saving the planet and your budget at the same time.
Drew Hairston, the beverage manager at Dirty Habit in Washington, D.C., began experimenting with citrus stock at his bar several years ago in an effort to combat the rising price of fresh limes. “[We] started using every part of the citrus, from pit to peel, which meant foregoing automated juicing machinery in favor of peeling, puréeing and juicing by hand to maximize yields,” he says. “Citrus stocks can be used in place of fresh citrus in many cocktails, especially those requiring multiple ingredients. You can essentially use this as a sour mix for a Margarita, Tom Collins or any other citrus-forward cocktail.”
Since implementing citrus stock into Dirty Habit’s bar program, Hairston and his team are able to reuse approximately 250 lemons or limes on a weekly basis, yielding about 12 quarts of stock and significantly increasing the return on their original investment.
In Nashville, the team behind The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club took a cue from Trash Tiki and is now one of the most prolific producers of stock in the U.S. bar scene. “I wanted to write a program that was as sustainability-focused as possible,” says beverage director Will Benedetto. “We wanted to challenge ourselves creatively to explore alternatives to conventional citrus, but we still wanted a way to make classic cocktails [and avoid] alienating people. ... Citrus stock was the answer.”
At present, The Fox has fully replaced fresh juice with stock within their cocktail program, effectively spending zero dollars on fresh citrus—they source husks from a local juice company—without compromising their cocktail program. “Lemons and limes are all roughly 6 percent sugar, 3 percent citric acid and 2 percent malic acid,” says Benedetto. “Armed with this knowledge, we can turn virtually any liquid into an acid-corrected substance that will behave in your shaker much like lemon or lime juice.”
The Fox’s scenario is unique in that it does not purchase any fresh citrus for juicing purposes. This is not the norm for most establishments. Benedetto, who also works with several bar programs in New York City, is exploring a happy medium by blending stock and juice to “close the loop and extend the life of citrus juices,” he says. “Sure, we’ll order a case of limes, juice them and shake it up, but rather than throw away the juiced husks, I want to turn that into a stock like we do at The Fox and then blend it with the conventional juice.”
This approach is one that any bar looking to experiment with sustainable practices can easily begin to implement, and Trash Tiki’s recipes are available freely and publicly for that very purpose.