Increasingly, people are swearing off meat, having kids, flying and even cocaine due to the associated environmental impact. But is it about time we started to look at the carbon footprint of our favourite drinks, too?
Now, we’re certainly not telling everybody to cut out booze altogether, but there are plenty of ways to shop your serves smarter.
Paul Mathew, founder of non-alcoholic aperitifs brand Everleaf and co-owner of London bars The Hide, The Arbitrager, and Demon, Wise & Partners, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Every bottle on your home bar will have its own journey and footprint.
‘These add up as you get all those extra cocktail ingredients and beautiful new bottles, so depending on your choices, you could end up with a bar that’s big on carbon.’
He uses glass as an example.
‘Many premium spirits have heavy bottles as an indicator of their worth,’ he says, ‘but glass is one of the biggest contributors to the carbon footprint of a product.’
The good thing is that more brands are swapping to recycled and/or lighter glass, and others are starting to offer pouch refill packs so you can reuse instead of recycle the first bottle you bought.
‘As with your food shop,’ Paul adds. ‘Buying local can help too. There are dozens of London-based brands, so as attractive as that exotic bottle might be, perhaps your money might be better spent locally, with fewer miles on the clock.
‘As a first step, dig a bit deeper beyond the brand’s marketing for what they’re doing behind the scenes. If you can’t find anything, move on.’
La’Mel Clarke, floor manager at Seed Library and spirits guide with booze, bar and drinkware site Drinks Distilled, points out that you can go off script with what you’ve already got in your kitchen.
He tells us: ‘Raid your kitchen cupboards and get creative as there are so many everyday ingredients that can be used for a multitude of purposes.’
La’Mel recently did this when creating two new cocktails. The first, The Surplus Cobbler, uses ‘surplus’ white wine. ‘It might have been gifted and wasn’t quite to your taste or you might have an awkward measure left that isn’t quite enough for a full glass,’ says La’Mel.
The second, The Dandy Floradora, uses raspberry jam for sweetness and balsamic vinegar to ‘help bolster the taste of the raspberry whilst adding texture and depth of flavour.’
Jake O’Brien Murphy, bartender, drinks writer, broadcaster, consultant and La’Mel’s fellow Drinks Distilled spirits guide, tells us he often gets asked about how people can be more socially conscious with their home drinks-mixing.
‘Thankfully,’ he says, ‘the home bar doesn’t generate the same carbon footprint as a dedicated venue would. Yet there are certainly some hacks and tricks to close the loop.
‘The klaxon call is simple – reduce, reuse and recycle. In the bigger picture of drinking, green choice matters – reducing the amount of packaging and transport your chosen products use will have the largest effect.’
He recommends opting for brands like Boatyard Distillery, which he says have a sustainable field-to-bottle ethos and just use local, Irish wheat in its organic vodka that can be traced right back to the field it was grown in.
Indeed, Paul stresses the importance of a bottle’s ingredients.
He says: ‘At Everleaf, we get lots of things sustainably, from Fair Trade and other certified sources. For other raw materials, apple orchards are known to be great carbon sinks, whilst there are lots of challenges facing the cultivation of agave – so perhaps try switching out your tequila for a calvados, and make a sidecar instead of a margarita?’
Jake says there are also even more locally-sourced things you can use to make your favourite flavours.
‘Trade citrus for naturally sour fruits grown here in the UK,’ he suggests. ‘Gooseberries bring acidity and crunch to a classic sour.
‘Local herbs from a farmer’s market are just as complex and beautiful as anything cultivated overseas. Try sorrel, woodruff and sweet cicely.’
But his ‘biggest’ word to the wise?
‘Know your raw ingredients,’ he says. ‘There are so many opportunities for recycling and flavours that bartenders miss out on.
‘Steep spent coffee grounds in neutral spirits to extract all the leftover goodness for your next espresso martini. If you’re using citrus fruit, create an oleo-saccharum from the peels for an aromatic syrup that’ll improve any drink.’
And what about your glassware?
Nicola Jones, Co-Founder of Drinks Distilled, recommends shopping for vintage items.
She says: ‘Not only does it look more unique and add a touch of retro glamour to a drinks trolley, but in purchasing vintage you help to reduce demand for new glassware and the energy and resources to produce it.
‘What’s more – vintage pieces are often created using higher quality craftsmanship and materials that are built to last, provided they’re cared for in the right way. Stylish, practical and eco-conscious – what’s not to love?’